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Stress and it's effects on students. Just a thought

Stress and it's effects on students. Just a thought

I saw this story today. I had to share. It's not the ending you would expect. It is in it's original form.

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

This reminds us that it is very important to let go of your stress. As students, we tend to hold onto deadlines the whole semester but I find it important to take a break from the stress of school every night and put it aside. Putting it aside for the night, while you can't do anything about it anyways helps take the load off. Relaxing when possible helps to keep you mentally healthy during your studies. Tomorrow is a new day with endless possibilities! Tonight we shall rest!


  • Miranda,

    I love that metaphor with the water, it is so true! We sometimes don't notice right away that something is causing us stress, it is only after the stress continues for a long period of time do we begin to really feel it. Little things start to show the cracks that stress causes, first physically and then mentally. For me, when I get stressed I get headaches, then my eye twitches and then I get really irratable because I am not sleeping. The ramifications of me not dealing with stress tips toes in slowly (like holding the water for a minute) and slowly it becomes more and more of a burden. This metaphor tells us to deal with stress right away and not let it overwhelme us.

    Michelle Witte January 24, 2014 - 1:03pm

  • Miranda,

    Thanks for this post! It really got me thinking about the stress of working a full time and part time job and taking this course. I can definitely relate. As I come to the end of this course, your post has got me thinking about the effect that this juggling act has had on all aspects of my life. When I started the course, I felt great! I was enthusiastic and found the material interesting. I maintained my social life, work life, my daily physical activity as well as my studies. Now that I am almost done the course, I amusingly realize that I haven't seen my friends in over a month, I am more irritable at work and I sprained my ankle while I was working out as a result of being careless and too tired! What a great analogy of holding the water too long! I have learned that in the future, I should choose a different strategy and be more mindful of balance. In other words, I will remember to switch hands while holding the water. Wink

    Nicole Flodberg January 26, 2014 - 9:57pm

  • Hi Miranda,

    That is definitely not what I was expecting, I went straight to the half full/half empty metaphor too. I must say, this really resonated with me. I don't necessarily feel "stressed" about school all of the time but I am definitely always thinking about what I have to do next. For me, it's more about getting things done as quickly as I possibly can, so then I can move on to the next thing. Sometimes when I think about all of the things I could be doing in this course and others, it's hard to decide where to start. I will be the first to say that I need to do a better job of knowing when to switch things off and find other outlets. This post does a good job of pointing that out.


    Mallory Frayn February 1, 2014 - 12:43pm

  • Kirk Gordon

    Fantastic lesson.  I am tempted to mimic it with some of my students.  The act of letting go is tough to fully commit to.  I find the longer I "hold the glass" the more ways I try to creatively keep a comfortable hold of it.  So after this article, even if it is temporary, I raise it once more in a "cheers" to letting it go.  


    Thank you for the reminder.    

    Kirk Gordon February 19, 2014 - 8:36am

  • Chrystal Harman

    Hi Miranda,

    I definitely can connect with what the article stated with the water glass beginning to feel heavier and heavier the longer one holds it. For me personally I feel like I am constantly under the gun to get things done in my world...assignments for school, housework, meals for my children, getting my children to activities and so on. When I go to lay down at night my brain is still going over what needs to be done and what I should be doing, some nights I almost feel guilty going to sleep. All the stress slowly begins to take a toll on not only my physical health but my mental and emotional health as well. Your post made me stop and think about how important it is to sometimes put things (i.e. the water glass) down and take a break.

    Thank you for your wonderful post.


    Chrystal Harman March 4, 2014 - 4:03pm

  • Holding the water glass analogy is perfect for all of us to understand how the little stressors add up.  I see it all the time with my students, my child and in my life.  We hold on to the little things, which don’t seem like much but they begin to weigh us down.  They affect our mood, sleep and our physical well-being.  Each and everyday I am reminding and am reminded of how we need to let go and break things down into manageable steps.  If we are able to get something done, take a step forward, forgive then we are slowly emptying the glass and we are able to function a little bit better.  Thanks for the reminder.  I will definitely use this analogy with the next student that comes in my room and is overwhelmed with life.

    Juanita Burchby-Martin May 5, 2014 - 1:38pm

  • This is great and something to share with others!  It actually reminded me how much stress can impact your life especially when taking courses.  I work full time and I have two kids.  I'm stressed and I sadly say I drink the water and hope for the best which is not good.  Thank you for sharing!

    Natalie Ducharme July 31, 2014 - 9:45am

  • An excellent metaphor for the issue of holding on to stress.  I've spent over two years in weekly massage therapy to deal with chronic back, neck pain, and migraines. I've only recently realized that I am "working the symptoms" with the massage, and that the cause is emotional stress. I've noticed that, after an argument, or after trying to manage a difficult classroom (I am a high school teacher), my neck and back flair up almost immediately. When I research various conditions with chronic muscular pain, the solution is much the same...either keep popping painkillers, or else regularly stop what you are doing, breathe deeply, meditate, and do exercise such as yoga. Thanks for sharing that story.

    Steve Balnave September 11, 2014 - 11:31am

  • I read a similar passage in "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz:

    There was a man who wanted to transcend his suffering so he went to a Buddhist temple to find a master to help him. He went to the Master and asked, “Master if I meditate for four hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”

    The Master looked at him and said, “If you meditate four hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in ten years.”

    Thinking he could do better, the man then said, “Oh, Master, what if I meditated eight hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”

    The Master looked at him and said, “If you meditate eight hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in twenty years.”

    “But why will it take me longer if I meditate more?” the man asked.

    The Master replied. “You are not here to sacrifice your joy or your life. You are here to live, to be happy, and to love. If you can do your best in two hours of meditation, but you spend eight hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you won’t enjoy your life. Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love, and be happy.”

    I, too, have a difficult time falling asleep thinking about finances and due-dates. Taking time for me helps a lot and I hope to make it a regular routine over the next 6 months.

    Danielle Rettie September 11, 2014 - 9:59pm

  • Thank you for the article. I have shared it with my other friends. Everybody nowadays always being stressful due to circumstances and looking for "healing" subjects, but I believe the best way is to not get a stress beforehand. I tend to have insomnia thesedays and realized maybe its caused by a stress! Water glass is a great explanation.

    Eunhye Yoon September 27, 2014 - 8:50am

  • HI Miranda, I agree this is a great article and I have never been a glass half full/empty kinda gal, but I like this new way of looking at it with the weght of the water having more influence then how much is in the glass.  I have lots of stuff going on in my life with a family, two jobs, grad school and courses that I take for my second degree.  It seems never ending!  If you let all this get to you it sure can suck the life out of you and get very heavy.  It reminds me of the statue with the man bent over holding on to the world!  It can make you feel like you are holding on to all your problems of the world, so learning to deal with the stress that we have in our lives is important especially if we are going to go into the human service feild it is so important that we understand how to keep our selves healthy so that we are able to keep our clients healthy!  great post!

    Nadine Dalheim

    Nadine Dalheim September 29, 2014 - 4:17pm

  • Very interesting article and metaphor...I recently had the unique opportunity to observe the effects of stress on one's heart first hand.  My mom just had open heart surgery the first part of January and was hooked up to a plethora of heart monitors among other things post-op.  My father is an alocoholic and before surgery had promised my mom to try and quit drinking.... a promise he was unable to keep.  To make a long story short, she found out he was drinking and almost immediatly her heart rate and blood pressure spiked.  For those of us not attached to these machines that produce immediate results for the effects of stress, it is critical we listen to our bodies and practice relaxation/meditative excercises daily to keep both our minds and bodies healthy.

    Tamara Sebastian February 14, 2015 - 7:29am

  • Thank you so much for sharing this; I absolutely loved the message of this untraditional approach to a glass of water! It reminds me of a saying I once heard that says, "Idle time is the devil's playground." My interpretation of this is that if you have too much time on your hands — and too much time to think — you can lead yourself into a complete frezy. It is similar to the glass of water: spend five minutes thinking about something and you might not be affected by it, but spend hours upon hours wondering about its every complexity and you'll drive yourself crazy! I know that I personally have found that when I am busy with things that are mentally stimulating, emotionally therapeutic, or physically beneficial, my mental health is also much better than if I just am bored with too much time on my hands to think! Thank you again for sharing this. 

    Kristina Virro April 14, 2015 - 2:57pm

  • It is amazing how simple metaphors can resonate with us so profoundly. Stress can easily take control of our lives if we are not careful. A simple problem can swallow us up whole if we dwell on it unnecessarily. Holding on to stressors increases our risk of developing a variety of illnesses, hinders our sleep patterns, and can affect our daily lives. We must be consciously thinking of how we can shift our thinking, create healthy life patterns, and balance our stress so that we are not paralyzing ourselves with glasses that no longer need to be held. 

    Caelie Crowley June 12, 2015 - 7:18pm

  • Hi Miranda,

    Thank you for sharing this post. This is a helpful example of the effects of stress, especially as it applies to almost any type of stress. I can personally relate to this post as it affects my academic career. When I first began my studies three years ago, I found myself nearly crippled by the amount of stress I faced during exam times. I also found that I spiralled into the same pattern of self-destruction and despair each semester, meanwhile, all my fears were for nothing, as I have never failed an exam (gotten some bad marks, but never failed). What I learned (the hard way) was that no matter what happens during exam time, when it's over, my life will continue as it did before. This thought helped me work through the last three years of studies, so that now, when exam time approaches, I am able to set aside my worries and stresses, and by doing so, I give myself more power and determination to work hard and get assignments done without wasting time and energy feeling sorry for myself.

    Alexanne Tschritter November 12, 2015 - 2:39pm

  • Hi Miranda,

    This is one of my all time favorite metaphors and coming from a psychologist made it all the more powerful. I definitely think stress is something that effects everyone and to an extent that people do not always notice and has many ways of manifesting itself elsewhere.

    I think it also connects well to this course because in counselling it is always important to meet people where they are at. In order to support someone, professionals have to be aware of the environment their clients are in as well as their direct stressors in order to aid them in moving forward and healing.  

    Thanks so much for your post!

    Morgan McClelland August 31, 2016 - 6:41pm

  • Hi Miranda, 


    Thank you for this post - I had actually heard it before but forgot about it until I stumbled onto your bookmark.  I think sometimes it's a simple needed change in perspective to really make an important point.  As someone who lives with an (at times completely crippling) anxiety disorder, having the effects of stress and worry explained so simply is very helpful in a lot of ways.  Trying to navigate through school, work, personal relationships, and self-care can be so overwhelming for university students.  We are constantly seeing the negative impact stress can have on a persons life and most often physical and mental functioning are the biggest casualties.  Taking a few moments to reframe and refocus, and remind ourselves that we need to let go and not be needlessly burdened by stress and worry can do wonders.  A simple metaphorical explanation, like the water analogy, can be an incredibly useful tool in mindfulness, self-talk, and cognitive restructuring. 

    Great Post! 

    Lyndsay Carver October 15, 2017 - 12:36pm

  • I think this is a simple metaphor that everyone needs to take into consideration. Everyone including, students, counselors, professionals, and future clients.

    Many helpers want to do wahtever they can to help their clients, but taking on a littel stress from everyone is going to transform into a paralyzing amount of stress for one. We need to ba cautious of how susceptable we are to taking on others stresses, and holding onto our own. Let them go, stressors aren't going to change overnight, or by stressing about them for a couple of hours.

    This supports the concept of "self-care" that is reiterated to us, as students. If we can learn proper self-care as students it is going to have long term benefits to us as professionals, on top of enjoying every day life a little more.

    Erica DeSchipper February 10, 2018 - 12:00pm

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