An International Student’s Thoughts on Sleep, Stress and Anxiety in the US

In this paper, I am going to share three different topics that somehow relate to psychological principles with you. In America, a lot of people are suffering from excessive sleepiness. Is sleep important and what happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Modern life is full of time pressure and frustration. In other words, it’s stressful. Racing against deadlines, sitting in traffic, arguing with your spouse – all these make your body react as if you were facing a physical threat. How does that affect your body and how can you reduce it? Do you always feel like you go “blank” or become frustrated during the exam? If you do, you probably have test anxiety. What causes text anxiety and how can you avoid and reduce it?

Site one:

Description: This site is on “Why sleep is important and what happens when you don’t get enough.” It has a lot of topics about sleep. It covers the importance of sleep; consequences of losing sleep, how environment and behavior affect a person’s sleep, how to get a good night’s sleep, and so on. It is affiliated with American Psychological Association (APA), which is the largest association of psychologists worldwide. The potential audience could be the people who do not get enough sleep all the time and suffering from sleepiness.

Application to Psychology: sleep deprivation has many negative effects. Individuals who are in sleep deprivation are at high risk for some sort of accident, entails difficulty studying, diminished productivity, tendency to make mistakes, irritability, and fatigue. A person who has a large sleep debt is always living a less that optimal life and performing at a less than optimal level.

Application to myself: I chose this website not only because I do not always get enough sleep, but also because today millions of people are carrying sleep debts. However, they are not even aware that they are. After I came to the U.S. from China three years ago, I started gaining a lot of sleep debts. The main reason is that China’s time zone is about 12 hours earlier than the U.S. time zone. Midnight in the United State is the afternoon in China. In order to talk to my parents and Chinese friends online or by phone, I always I have to stay up late; until one or two o’clock in the morning. In the meantime, I have school early the next morning, so I often do not get enough sleep. The effect is pretty apparent; I always feel really tired and could not concentrate 100% in the class, especially the ones that do not appeal me at all. Sleep deprivation also impacts my life negatively. For example: when I am doing my homework, I will either have a hard time to read a long article, or I will make some really stupid mistakes that I would have not made if I am energetic; when I play soccer, which is my favorite sport, I get tired really fast and move slower than I normally do.

Sleep deprivation is a big problem for many people as they often do not get enough sleep due to their job, family or children to everybody. However, if you have the choice, you should make every attempt to get enough sleep as you will benefit from it.

Site two:

Description: This site is on “Stress: Why you have it and how it hurts your health.” It mainly describes how stress affects the human body and how one can reduce the effects of stress. It is affiliated with Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Its potential audience could be the ones who feel stressed and pressure all the time.

Application to Psychology: After you’ve fought, fled or otherwise escaped your stressful situation, the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream decline. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal and your digestion and metabolism resume a regular pace. This is called stress. But if stressful situations pile up, one after another, your body has no chance to recover. This long-term activation of the stress-response system can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes, increasing your risk of obesity, insomnia, digestive complaints, heart disease and depression.

Digestive system: It’s common to have a stomachache or diarrhea when you’re stressed. This happens because stress hormones slow the release of stomach acid and the emptying of the stomach. Chronic stress can also lead to continuously high levels of cortisol. This hormone can increase appetite and cause weight gain.

Immune system: Chronic stress tends to dampen your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and other infections. In some cases, stress can have the opposite effect, making your immune system overactive. The result is an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, in which your immune system attacks your body’s own cells.
Nervous system: If your fight-or-flight response never shuts off, stress hormones produce persistent feelings of anxiety, helplessness and impending doom.” (Stress)

Application to myself: I chose this website because I have been through a lot of pressure and stress since I got to U.S. Living and going to school in the U.S. is a great challenge for me not only physically, but also financially. After making the decision to go to college in the U.S., I had to sacrifice a lot. College education is very expensive, my parents’ financial help is not enough to support me to go to school. I have to have a part time job while going to school. I have never worked in my whole life in China. This situation changed after I came to U.S., bringing me a lot of physical stress. I also suffer a lot of mental stress too. It is mainly because I live far away from my parents and close friends in China.

Living in a different country is always hard. I have encountered many difficulties and I believe I have dealt with them pretty well. I manage this by thinking about positive things, like the bright future I will have after I graduate from college, the good living environment I am staying in right now, the chance of mastering English language, and so on. I become a much more optimistic person and suffer a lot less from the stress and pressure of work and school.

Site Three:

Description: This site is on “Test anxiety.” It provides detailed information about symptoms, causes of test anxiety, and provides tips on how to cope with text anxiety. It is affiliated with “Reconnecting U”, which is a privately held Massachusetts company. Founded in 2000, they are dedicated to supporting the mental health and well being of individuals as they move through their personal transitions. The potential audience could be all of the college students who are always nervous, and frustrated about tests.

Application on Psychology: Anxiety is a natural human response to a threatening situation. Anxiety is a form of the “fight-or-flight” response. The body and mind become aroused and alert to prepare for attack or to escape from a threat. Test and performance anxieties describe responses specific to evaluative situations-situations in which you are being observed or evaluated by others. Symptoms are headaches, nausea or diarrhea, extreme body temperature changes, excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, fidgeting, pacing, going blanks, and difficulty concentrating.

Test or performance anxiety typically occurs: 1. In the presence of a difficult, threatening or challenging situation. 2. When you believe that you are inadequate or incapable of meeting the challenge, and you fear the consequences of possible failure.
Tips for reducing text anxiety are:

“Good preparation – develop good study habits, spreading studying over several days; ask for additional help when needed.
Keep a positive attitude – develop reasonable expectations; do not allow your grades to become dependent on the outcome of one exam; avoid negative and irrational thoughts about catastrophic results.

Relaxation techniques – deep breathing exercises, imagery and visualization, and muscle relaxation techniques can help to increase focus on concentration; don’t arrive too early or get distracted by others preparing for the test; check to make sure you have everything you will need.

Learn good test-taking skills – do not panic if you can’t remember something right away; answer questions you know well first, and then go back to other ones; read questions and directions carefully before you begin.” (Text Anxiety)

Application to myself: the reason I chose this website is because personally I have test and performance anxiety too. In China, the only way to evaluate students at school is the grade on the final exam. It inevitably gives a lot of pressure to the students, because if you fail, your whole year fails and it does not matter how well you do during the semester. I was one of the top students at my high school in China, having good grades all the time. My parents, friends and teachers have really high expectations for me all the time. Once, I represented my school at a math competition. Before the test, everybody gave me many compliments of how good I was and how well I would be doing on the test. Everybody expected me to win first place. However, that brought me a lot of pressure, because I thought people would see me as a failure even if I got second place. On the test, I was stuck on one of the questions that was worth the most points. I started getting nervous and could not help thinking about the expectations from all of my friends, teachers, and family. If I could not figure out how to do this problem, I would lose the first place for sure. The more I thought about the consequences, the more I panicked, and finally I went blank. I could not think of anything else, but how big a failure I would be if I did not get first place. What happened later was even worse. I went blank on the rest of the problems. I could not even figure out one problem. I knew that I knew how to solve the problems, but I was nervous and could not calm down. I was sweating and could not think of anything. I failed the test and did not win any place. Later on, when I reviewed all of the problems I missed, I found that I could figure them out easily. Anxiety took my points away. Later, I learned to treat tests like a normal thing and not a big deal. I try to avoid thinking about the consequences of the test. When I could not figure out some problems, I would think to myself that others probably could not either. Later on in my high school career I did much better on the test. I learned that defeating my competitor was an easy thing, but defeating myself is the hardest. If I can overcome myself, I can get over anything.

Work Cited

“Stress: Why you have it and how it hurts your health”, Mayo Clinic, 23 September 2005. 28 September 2005.

“Test Anxiety”, Campusblue, 2004, 28 September 2005.

“Why sleep is important and what happens when you don’t get enough”, American Psychological Association, 2005, 28 September 2005. .

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