Studying, Stress, and Self-Care

November 3, 2016

ESPM professor and Berkeley Connect director Bree Rosenblum talks with students about her path into academia.Students at Berkeley care. We care about our environment, we care about social issues—and we care about academics. With midterm season well underway, you don’t have to travel far on campus to see students frantically studying or comparing the number of hours they slept the night before. Sometimes it seems that we can care too much about academics.

In keeping with Berkeley Connect’s mission of building strong communities, recent small-group discussions in Berkeley Connect in Environmental Science, Policy and Management encouraged students to chat together about how they were weathering the storm.

Led by graduate mentor Jane Flegal, a group of Berkeley Connect students parsed the difference between “good” and “bad” stress. “Stress can be helpful because it forces me to manage my time and create deadlines for myself,” said one student. In contrast, Jane added that “if we stress about things that we can’t control in the long term, then this can be very unhelpful. The key is to recognize productive and unproductive stress and try to minimize the latter.”

The students were joined by Professor Bree Rosenblum, the faculty director of Berkeley Connect ESPM. “I wanted to practically and symbolically do what Berkeley Connect is all about and have some informal time together,” she said at the start of the session. She then proceeded to field questions, offer advice, and generally make herself available to the students as they shared their experiences.

Reflecting on her own non-linear career path, Bree answered a student’s concern about making the most of his time at Berkeley by offering him several options: “There is the conventional answer and the unconventional answer to your question,” she said. “Conventional advice would point you towards the direction of doing what Berkeley is world-reknowned for: research. However, my unconventional advice would be for you to just live your life. The experiences you will have here will serve you well. Milking something just for the sake of ‘making the most of it’ can get really exhausting.”

The conversation moved towards ways to approach the “unproductive stress” that many of the students have experienced. Bree shared, “I had to be really strong in not buying into that culture and finding places I could go to find resilience—like family, for example.”

As the conversation drew to a close, Bree highlighted the importance of making time for personal activities—whether that’s writing, cooking, or hanging out with friends. “In a way, it’s like how when the heart pumps, the first place the blood flows is back to the heart itself—you’ve got to remember to feed yourself first!”

Although this session started as a space to reflect on anxieties—and students did share their honest concerns—what emerged in the end was an insightful and uplifting conversation about balance, resilience, and the future.

Posted by

Victoria Jing

Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant