Nobody Wants to Go Crazy

Stress. It’s Bad.

Unfortunately, we all experience stress during some times in our lives. What with busy schedules, homework, paper deadlines, project deadlines, work, clubs, ministries, friends, and just life, it’s amazing to me sometimes that some of us even make it through the day. Juggling all of those things without dropping one or four is difficult. It’s stressful. Often times, a little bit of stress can be a good motivator—you know, the whole “I work better under pressure” bit—however, when stress isn’t managed well, it can have terrible effects on your body and mind.

In order to research adequately for this article, I recently attempted to watch National Geographic’s Stress: Portrait of a Killer. Needless to say, I did not get very far before I had to stop. The title alone is enough to scare anyone into never being stressed again. Or, if you are anxiety-prone, it could make you develop metastress, a phenomenon occurring when one becomes stressed about being stressed. That said, I decided to go the safe route and just Googled it. Unmanaged stress often will  cause somatic symptoms, meaning that the psychological strain will manifest itself physically in the form of headaches, upset stomachs, higher blood pressure, or problems sleeping. Emotionally, it can make you irritable, anxious, and just downright unhappy. In addition to this, the hormones emitted when stress occurs can have long term effects that are damaging.

To help combat everyday stress so it doesn’t build up, I compiled a list of ways to manage stress as it comes.

Exercise/Physical Techniques

Chances are you’ve heard this just shy of a million times. But it’s true! Any type of exercise is great for stress. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that make you feel the physical effects of stress less. Exercise is also great for your overall health, and it increases self-esteem. If done consistently, exercise can also help give you more energy, lower general stress levels, and help you sleep better.

In order to be effective, it’s recommended that you engage in some sort of physical activity for thirty minutes every day. This could be taking a walk around campus, playing a lively game of racquetball, or pounding it out on the treadmill. Anything that gets you moving. It’s also recommended that you mix up the activities that you do and that you make a plan to do it consistently. Telling a friend can help keep you accountable and possibly provide you an exercise buddy. Keep it consistent, and keep it interesting!

Physical techniques are not limited to exercise alone. Breathing and tension relief exercises are quite helpful as well. Deep breathing is both calming and stabilizing, and it provides your body with the oxygen it needs to function. To take a deep, calming breath, start by first exhaling all of the air in your lungs. As you exhale, push your navel back into your spine: this ensures that you get all of the air out. Then, inhale slowly through your nose using your diaphragm. When your stomach has expanded to maximum capacity, exhale the same way you did before, making sure to keep the breath smooth and controlled.

Diet

The foods you eat also have a great deal of sway in how your body feels. Foods are endowed naturally with everything we need to function well. This pertains to stress management as well! Here’s a list adapted from WebMD about good foods to eat in order to cope with stress:

1. Complex carbohydrates. All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which are digested more slowly. Good choices include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pastas, as well as old-fashioned oatmeal. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

2. Spinach. This leafy vegetable is high in magnesium, which is great because too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach goes a long way toward replenishing magnesium stores.

3. Oranges. As you know from any time you’ve ever had a cold, oranges abound in vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. In one study of people with high blood pressure, blood pressure and cortisol levels (a stress hormone) returned to normal more quickly when people took vitamin C before a stressful task.

4. Black tea. I know as college students we all love drinking coffee, but drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank four cups of tea daily for six weeks with people who drank another beverage. The tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations.

5. Pistachios and Almonds. Pistachios and almonds are good sources of healthy fats. Eating a handful of pistachios or almonds every day may help lower your cholesterol, ease inflammation in your heart’s arteries and help protect you against the effects of stress. Also, almonds are chock-full of helpful vitamins: vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus B vitamins, which may make you more resilient during bouts of stress such as depression. To get the benefits, snack on a quarter of a cup every day.

So there you have it, folks, a few easy things you can do to help yourself manage stress a little bit better. Although sometimes stress can really be an overwhelming weight, it’s encouraging to know that it can be controlled. As Christians we can be further encouraged by the fact that we don’t have to do everything on our own. We have a Savior who loves us and gives us the power and abilities to do everything we need to do. Along with these external tips, we can also remember to seek the Lord and give him our burdens.

 

Bein’ Apathetic’s a Pathetic Way to Be

True conviction from the Holy Spirit is an experience unlike any other.  It strikes a deep, silver tone in your soul that’s impossible to ignore as it resonates in your bones. Paradoxically, it is simultaneously both unsettling and comforting: it’s an undeniable call to redress, but it comes with the peace of certainty.       

I can count the number of times I have experienced this on half a hand, and one of them was just before school started this year. I had gone to church with some friends of mine, and for some reason I was inexplicably angry. Out of sorts. Defiant. A spiritual rebel without a cause. Frankly, I did not want to be there, and I did not want to enjoy myself, dangit. I just didn’t care. I suppose there were just things going on in my heart that I had not dealt with: a collection of frustrations and shortcomings and sin that was finally culminating to a breaking point that evening.

Honestly, I don’t even remember what the sermon proper was about, but the closing challenge is something I know I will remember for years to come. First, the pastor challenged us to spend the week reading through Ephesians, taking a few minutes each morning to read one chapter. Six chapters, six days. We would be astounded, he said, how much our relationship with Christ would grow in just a week if we spent consistent time in scripture. By the time we got to this point in the service, I had become softened enough to come to terms with the fact that I needed to make some serious changes, so I vowed to do it. Next, he encouraged us to identify an area of our lives, a certain weakness or sin that was holding us back from experiencing the things that Christ had planned for us. He directed us to pray about it for a few minutes and ask the Spirit to bring something to our attention, whether it be sexual sin or addiction or bitterness or hatred, etc.

But I’m not doing any of those things, I thought to myself. I must be doing okay. No sooner did I think those prideful words than it washed over me with the sweeping force of a rip tide.  Apathy. Apathy, apathy, apathy. That I wasn’t doing anything was exactly the problem. Settled in my revelation, I prayed that the Spirit would help me to overcome this because I surely did not know how. With amazing alacrity, the answer came to me the next day as I read Ephesians 1.

Those of you who have ever taken an NT class will know that Paul, just like any rational person, usually begins his letters with words of greeting to the receivers of the letter. Toward the end of the first chapter, Paul offers prayer and thanksgiving for the church at Ephesus. He writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, my give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  Those verses really struck me; Paul was very obviously burdened for his fellow believers and their spiritual wellbeing.  That was what I needed to do to conquer my apathy. I needed to pray like I meant it for those I loved.  I needed to be burdened for them rather than just feeling sorry for them for a little while.

This was especially powerful for me because a number of my close friends have been experiencing some truly difficult and trying things, and I knew that a very large part of the apathy that I was so convicted of was encompassed in the fact that I was doing absolutely nothing to help them. I would hear about their troubles and feel kind of sad about it for a little while, but ultimately I would move onto other things in my life, unconcerned. I was not loving even my closest friends.

Elated and humbled with the breakthrough, I highlighted those verses and wrote next to them, “This should be my prayer every day for all of my friends. What better way to encourage them than to pray consistently for them? BREAK THE HABIT OF APATHY. BE BURDENED FOR OTHERS.” I also was convinced that this needs to extend past just my friends. Feeling sympathy for a person or a situation isn’t enough; it does not incite action. I think seeing need or hurt or brokenness and feeling burdened for it is the only way to move ourselves out of stasis. Being truly stirred by compassion and moved to action is the only way to show the love of Christ. Jesus never saw a person in need and proceeded to go on his way feeling sorry for her. He did something about it. In my situation, I knew that the most powerful thing I could do was to pray.

Since then, I have really tried to pray Ephesians 1:17-19 every day for those who are close to me. Of course, I have not been perfect, I can say that it has really changed me for trying. It’s a process.

With all of that said, I encourage you all to pray for one another earnestly and intentionally. How different could our walks with the Lord be if we really supported each other in prayer? How different could this campus, this community, this world be if we simply followed Paul’s example? I would really like to see. And so I pray for you, readers, that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that you may know him better, and that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened so you  can know the hope and immeasurably great power that is available for us who believe.

A Chat with ORIGIN Author Jessica Khoury

As many of you undoubtedly know, noted TFC alumnus Jessica Khoury recently published her debut young adult novel, Origin. Released on September 4, the book has already met tremendous success, having been named by both Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBookstore as book of the month for September. She also appeared in chapel last week, speaking largely on the importance of Christians reclaiming the art world. Following the release of her book, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Khoury about this topic and others.

What books have influenced your writing career? Well, if I was very honest, I’d have to say every single one I’d ever read. But to pick a few: Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark books were the ones which moved me to begin my first novel when I was thirteen. After that, I admired works by Orson Scott Card, C. S. Lewis, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Robin Hobb. ORIGIN itself was inspired by Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Nation by Terry Pratchett, and Lost Horizon by James Hilton.

What sparked your interest in Eugenics? Just before the start of my sophomore year at TFC, I went on a study abroad trip with Drs. Shelton and Elkins. We traveled through Germany, studying the roots of the Reformation (rock on, Martin Luther!) Anyway, we also stopped at the Dachau concentration camp—one of the most sobering experiences of my life. It’s hard to even talk about it. But that was where I saw with my own eyes the kind of horrors which rose from the eugenics movement of the early 1900s. A lot of the emotions I felt that day went into my writing of ORIGIN.

Have you always wanted to write science fiction? I’ve always loved to read and watch it, but I’d never imagined myself writing it—I was always more of a high fantasy writer before ORIGIN. So I’m still kind of surprised when people refer to me as a “sci-fi author;” it was never a path I envisioned myself taking. I always thought I wasn’t clever enough to tackle science—hence the hours and hours of research I had to do for ORIGIN, even though it’s technically sci-fantasy.

What is the draw to Young Adult Literature? Has that always been your target audience? Pretty much, yes.It’s what I love to read, and it’s the most exciting genre in modern literature. Did you know 55% of YA novels are purchased by adults? It’s a genre that transcends generations, something that parents and children can read and discuss together. I love that about YA. You can take risks, blend genres, and break rules in YA that are often too rigid in other categories of fiction.

How did your experiences at TFC influence your development as a writer? I wrote a lot while at TFC, whether for class or my own enjoyment. I also participated in Inklings II, a writer’s group hosted by Dr. Don Williams, which helped me to learn to share my writing and receive feedback on it. Advanced Comp with Professor Mehl was very helpful too, because he required us to submit short stories to magazines and journals, something I’d never done. It really prepared me for the submission process I’d have to undergo with ORIGIN.

What role does faith play in Origin? Did your own faith grow as you wrote? ORIGIN is not Christian fiction, but it is certainly influenced by my Christian faith. In a way, it’s what you’d call pre-evangelistic—something which attempts to get people to ask the sort of questions that ultimately can only be answered in Christ. But I didn’t write ORIGIN to be an allegory or anything of that sort; I wanted to tell a story, and that’s what I did. As a Christian, it was inevitable that my faith influence some of the themes and in writing, I often found myself contemplating questions of immortality, immorality, faith, and science as I wrote.

Do you see your writing as an opportunity for ministry? How has that come to fruition? Everything we do is an opportunity for ministry, whether it’s preaching a sermon or writing a science fiction novel. I think it’s important to have that mindset of perpetual ministry, and to act consistently.

Can you describe what the writing process looked like? I wrote ORIGIN very quickly, finishing the first draft in 30 days. I made it a point to write 2,000 words a day until the book was done. But that’s just the first phase of the process; months of editing followed.

Did you try to publish any of your previous work before Origin? What was that process like? Prior to ORIGIN, I tried to sell several short stories and poems, some of which ended up getting small publications. I also submitted a high fantasy novel to several agents, but before it went anywhere I began writing ORIGIN, and ended up shelving that manuscript in order to focus on my new one. I’d still love to see it published one day, though.

How has your life changed since writing and publishing Origin? Up until last year, my lifelong dream was of getting published, so since that’s happened, I’ve been able to live that dream to the fullest. I began writing full time, which means I really only write part time and spend the rest promoting and traveling. It’s everything I always dreamed of doing and more, and it’s been such a huge blessing and privilege to have reached this stage!

If you could do anything differently in the writing/publishing process, what would it be and why? Looking back, I could certainly have spent more time editing ORIGIN before submitting it to agents. It was in pretty rough shape since I rushed too quickly from writing the first draft to sending it out. I was just so excited about the book I couldn’t wait!

Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have known about the writing/publishing process that you didn’t? I’ve had to learn almost everything about the process as I go along, and my agent is extremely helpful in teaching me the ropes. But one thing I’d have liked to know beforehand is that though there are exciting days, much of writing is fairly tedious. There are many days when my inbox is empty and there’s no thrilling news to report, and I still have to sit down a put one word after another. The writing life is composed of long stretches of quiet solitude interspersed with days of frenzied activity, and you have to prepare for both paces.

What was it like to sell the movie rights to the book? What are your feelings about that? It was absolutely thrilling! I hadn’t dared to think we’d sell the rights so soon; it’s not often that producers pick up books prior to publication. I spent a whole week talking to the most incredible producers and filmmakers in Hollywood, the kind of people you never expect to encounter except in the credits before a movie. It was so surreal! Of course, the road to the big screen is terrifically long and unpredictable. There’s no guarantee that an Origin movie will happen, but we remain hopeful.

Do you have any specific tips or advice for aspiring authors? One of the most important things you will bring to your writing is your personal life experience. Books and courses and method and workshops are all helpful tools, but they’re just that—tools. The real art of writing must come from the part of you that makes you unique, from the stories you’ve lived, the places you’ve been, and the odd quirks and secrets that compose your identity. Don’t be afraid to try to new things, travel to strange places, eat bizarre foods, or meet new people—the more deeply you live, the deeper your story will be.

Khoury continues to receive high acclamation for her work, and we as a staff would not only like to congratulate her for all that she has done, but to thank her for blessing us with her time and art.

A Better TFC

 With every new school year come various tweaks to the TFC experience, but this year has been especially full of new and exciting changes. In addition to several policy changes, I am quite pleased to report on a number of facility improvements.

Aramark is Stepping it Up

 I’ll get it out in the open right away: I have always been a dining hall skeptic. For the past three years, I have put more effort into avoiding the cafeteria than I would like to admit, and until my roommate dragged my obstinately defiant butt to lunch one afternoon earlier this semester, I would have been quite content to continue in that endeavor. However, that and subsequent experiences in the caf have caused me to change my thinking. On that fateful Tuesday, I strode begrudgingly into the dining hall and began to employ my typical foraging strategy—drifting aimlessly in and out of the stations until something vaguely struck my fancy.  I had almost finished my first turn around the place when what to my wand’ring eyes should appear, but fresh fruit other than spotty bananas. I’m talking strawberries and grapes, people! This was a huge deal for me because a great portion of my grievances against the caf had featured various condemnations of their lack of butter-free produce. Surprised but delighted, I piled my plate and, filled with almost evangelistic zeal, alerted anyone who would listen that there were strawberries to be had.

As great as it is, this increase in fresh fruit is not the only exciting shift Aramark has made.  I was quite encouraged to see a gluten-free station hanging out near the soup, as well as a wider variation in the salad bar, with items like pasta salad, chicken salad, cheese cubes, beets (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing), and bell peppers included among the more standard selections. Fortunately, the salad bar has not been the only thing to get a culinary face lift. The waffles have been snazzed up a bit, now including such novelties as chocolate syrup and sprinkles on a regular basis, and the sandwich station has expanded considerably, featuring  not only an array of different cold cuts, but also a greater assortment of breads and toppings. The greater sensitivity to dietary needs is definitely a promising step, and a general commitment to more variety is refreshing. It’s great to see that the leaders of the dining hall have taken student suggestions to heart; that our input is both heard and valued should be recognized as a major strength of the services here at TFC. Well played, Aramark. Well played.

Web Printing

 Out of the various new things on campus this year, this one excites me the most. If you have ever found yourself making a frenzied dash to the library in order to print an assignment you’ve just finished for a class you’re about to be late to, it will probably excite you too. Now, instead of using fifteen precious minutes to log onto a library computer and process a print job, you can print remotely via myTFC. This, of course, is awesome. The ever-so-handy service is located under the library tab on the left side of the myTFC  home page. When you click the web printing link, you will sign into the PaperCut program using your myTFC username and password. From there, you can upload your file and send it to the library copier. So easy!  An additionally great thing about this is that you do not have to comply with the library’s hours of operation: if you finish an assignment after they have closed, you can send it to the printer, and the print job will be finished the next morning.  Though this is a relatively small change, it’s a really nice option that students can take advantage of.

New Weight Room!

This next camps improvement should titillate athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Honestly, it may even inspire the physically wayward to become more involved in regular exercise. Yes, it is that good! The new weight room is located in the lower level of the student center underneath the Eagle’s Nest and it contains an assortment of new weight machines and free weights. Even if one is not comparing this facility to its rather sad, dank predecessor, she realizes that it is a sight to behold. New carpet covers the floor, space-enlarging mirrors line the walls, and a lovely view of the floodplains composes the front side. And as far as the equipment is concerned, one word comes to mind: legit. Seriously.

I had the pleasure of corresponding with Mr. Lee Yowell about the project, and he said that it is something that student development has wanted to do for a while. After the cardio room was finished, however, it was a matter of increased importance. Accordingly, planning for the venture began last spring. Considerations about location, funding and equipment were made with great care, as befitted the task at hand.  The location was chosen for its functionality and aesthetics; it’s a great room that had been out of use for several years. Funding was comprised completely of allotments of the budget specifically set aside for campus improvements, which means that no tuition money was needed to make the project happen. With funding in place, focus moved on to the substance of the room. After talking with several different equipment retailers, student development decided to work with Cybex, one of the leading fitness equipment vendors in the world. All of the machines and weights were specifically made for TFC and are completely American manufactured. All of this said, this new facility is definitely an asset to campus that we can all enjoy and be proud of.

The room is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday to all students, staff members, and spouses. I definitely encourage everyone to go check it out. Just make sure to bring your I.D.! Security does routine checks, and anyone without their card will be dismissed.

Greener Campus

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to note the fact that TFC has become a lot more environmentally friendly this year. Receptacles for recycling are now readily accessible, placed at strategic locations around campus. This is a huge step up from the previous one that was located in the student center. With this infrastructure in place, it is now much easier to take care of creation. In addition to the recycling push, I have noticed a general movement toward more paper-free functioning. Many professors have opted to display syllabi online rather than printing them, and Moodle is being used more frequently to orchestrate the assigning and submitting of homework. These changes are somewhat slight, but their implications are vast. They represent a change in perspective that serves to benefit not only the here and now, but also the future.              

Of the weight room development, Yowell stated, “…[it] really is part of a larger plan to look for ways in which we can enhance the student experience.  Students should be able to come back each school year and see something new.”  Considering all of the aforementioned improvements, I think we can definitely see this plan at work. These past couples of years have marked a positive shift in the general air on campus, a fact that cannot be overemphasized. After some trying times, it is both exciting and encouraging to see TFC on this trajectory of change and improvement. The Toccoa Falls College I will be leaving in the spring is quite different than the one I arrived at three years ago. While it has always been a great school, TFC has really developed into a place that I am really pleased to claim. Seeing these alterations for the better has instilled in me a greater sense of school pride. And that is a truly great feeling.

 

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