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A Belief In Stress Relief

hurricane matthew

As you all probably know, Hurricane Matthew hit Florida last week. Luckily for us here in Gainesville, the damages were minimal. However, we were informed that the hurricane could be dangerous and to be ready. A hurricane threat is scary but it was important to keep calm. I think the best way to cope with a potential threat is to be proactive. I bought packs of waters, protein bars, and other snacks that would last me if the power were to go out. My friends and I also bought some board and card games to play to keep us occupied if we were stuck in the house all day. I think that being prepared for the storm allowed us to ease our minds. Thankfully though, Hurricane Matthew just brought Gainesville some rain and nothing more.

Hurricane Matthew did greatly affect other areas close to us. Storm surge flooding affected the St. Augustine area, including major flooding on Anastasia Island where water was reported to be 2.5 feet above ground level. After killing hundreds in Haiti and other Caribbean nations, the storm is blamed for four deaths in Florida.

vacation time

Contrary to popular belief, vacations can be for more than just fun. To remain in a healthy state of mind I would definitely suggest taking any sort of break from work. Going on vacation can decrease burnout and help you recharge as well as refocus. This summer after a long junior year of college, I went to Prague and Croatia to visit my friends abroad. It was easily the best experience in my life so far. I was especially lucky to be able to experience the amazing places I went with my best friends. I believe that its important to take these trips with people who give off good vibes in order to get the most out of your experience. After my trip, I definitely felt refreshed. It was much needed and got my mind off of all my responsibilities just for a little while. The bonds strengthened on vacation are priceless. Whether you are going with your spouse, your friends, or your family, any memories made are irreplaceable.

As we all know, stress can do horrible damage to our bodies. Vacation time reduces stress levels and allows you to be your best healthy self. Continuous work with no breaks make people feel blocked and distracted. Some surveys show most people who vacation regularly feel energized and more ready to tackle the tasks at hand. Studies show that more vacation time workers take actually increases company productivity and decreases the number of sick days taken off. However, an expensive trip out of the country is not needed to reduce stress. Any type of vacation from work is more than fine. Explore your hometown, take a few days off and relax at home, or even go to a spa.

Check out this video I took in Croatia. We went on a speed boat and explored the beautiful Adriatic Sea.

don’t make me think

Reading Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think, has definitely given me some insight about making websites that I otherwise would not have even thought about. He brought to light interesting ideas and “facts of life” that are important to take into consideration while designing the content and layout of your site. Krug urges us to take advantage of the fact that people don’t read every word, instead they scan through. For example, taking advantage of conventions is a good way to make everything easier to understand when in a hurry. Conventions are widely used and standardized design patterns, such as a stop sign. People expect the logo/site ID of a website to be in the top left hand corner of the page so it would be beneficial to put yours there as well. In addition, how things work and look on your website should be similar to most websites in that if you are selling products or services you should use the shopping cart symbol, as well as using the icon that tells you it’s a link to a video, the search icon, and social networking sharing options.

One of Krug’s ideas that particularly stood out to me was having a clear visual hierarchy. Someone viewing your website should be able to understand where to look first. This can be accomplished by having all the visual cues accurately illustrating the relationships between things on the page. It should be clear which things are most important, which things are similar, and which things are parts of other things. Krug suggests that the more important something is, then the larger, bolder, or nearer to the top of the page it should be. Grouping things together is also important to show the things that are logically related.

Visual noise is something that can distract some people. In order to keep this from happening, Krug suggests keeping down shouting. This is when everything on the page is fighting for your attention, shown by many exclamation points and bright colors. Using the visual hierarchy you should make sure to guide users through the most important things you want them to see, everything can’t be the most important. Clutter is also detrimental to a website. It is important to make sure your website, especially Home Page, does not have too much stuff on it. It is important to get rid of things that is just noise and everything that is not needed must go.

No one wants to read a word heavy website. The best way to organize your website is to support scanning. Most of the time, users are looking for specific things in the text. In order to help, it is crucial to use plenty of headings to tell you what each section is about. Keeping paragraphs short is also useful. Long paragraphs are discouraging and harder for readers to keep their place. Using bullets are important as well. They are optimal for readability. Highlighting key terms is another characteristic of a good website. Scanning usually consists of looking for key words and phrases. If these words are bold, then they are easier to find. However, make sure not to highlight too many things.

It is hard to keep track of where you are in a website, that’s why its important to utilize street signs and breadcrumbs to help your users navigate. I think it is fundamental to display links that have already been clicked in a different color to give a sense of how much ground was covered. A good navigation on a website will tell users where to begin and what the options are. Putting them in standard places helps people locate them quickly and with minimum thought. Using persistent (global) navigation is helpful because it is displayed on every page of a site. It gives users constant confirmation that they are still in the same site. In addition, navigation helps users with the lost feeling that sometimes occurs when using the Internet. This can be counteracted by highlighting a users current location in the website whether it is in the navigation bars, lists, or menus. Krug also recommends taking advantage of breadcrumbs, which show you the path from the Home Page to where you currently are and make it easy to move back up to higher levels in the hierarchy of a site.

Often, the Home Page of a website will include a bunch of information that a typical user is not looking for when they go to the website. The Home Page has to accommodate so much that it is often difficult to decide what to keep and what to remove. However, Krug says that one thing that is important not to lose is conveying the big picture. He claims that the website needs to answer these four questions: what is this? What do they have here? What can I do here? And, why should I be here—and not somewhere else? It is important that your site can answer these questions at a glance and with little effort.

Towards the end of his book, Krug talks about mobile browsing, which I think is important in today’s society. He gives a few important tips such as to allow zooming as to help users read tiny text on a small screen. In addition, without the hovering capability that you have with a cursor on a computer, you do not have the same capability on a mobile device. This means that your affordances have to be clear. Affordances can be the three dimensional style of some buttons making it clear that they are meant to be clicked.

Krug then goes on to talk about usability as a common courtesy. He explains that there are some things that increase goodwill and that are important to keep in mind. Knowing the main things that people want to do on your site is one of them. These things should be made obvious and easy. Saving steps wherever you can, knowing what questions the user is likely to have and answering them, and making it easy to recover from errors are some of them as well.

emotional support animals

13600333_10209995021138340_7348969234017169409_nOwning a pet can be much more than you think. The difference between unmanageable and manageable stress could be having a pet. Some animals can provide  relief from anxiety, depression, and more just by simply being present. It is almost an undisputed fact that pets improve the lives of their owners. The companionship of a pet eases loneliness. while providing constant love and affection. Animals also can provide sensory stress relief. Just stroking a pet lowers blood pressure and can help you quickly feel calmer and less stressed.

In my opinion, one of the best activities held here at the University of Florida is Pet Playtime at the Reitz Union. During Finals week, a small booth is set up there so students can go and hold various types of smalls animals like puppies or kittens. They’re referred to as “therapy pets” and are brought in by Animal People Inc. to provide a warm, cuddly break from pencils, papers, and computers.

I actually love animals, I have two golden doodles at home. We got the second one this summer because we felt the older one could benefit from a friend. The puppy keeps my older dog active and playful. Just as my puppy had an affect on my older dog, I believe they can have the same effect on people.

exercise

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This is my personal favorite technique to manage stress. Physical fitness is a major component in mental fitness. Stepping away from an overwhelming situation to work out can actually improve cognitive function and alertness. Physical activity produces endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers, and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. When I feel like I hit a wall at the library, I find it best to take a break to exercise. My usual work out routine includes running on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then going on the stair master for 10-20 minutes.

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I like to end my time at the gym by doing some abs and lifting weights. If I don’t have time to go to the gym, I’ll go for a quick run around the neighborhood. Even five minutes of exercise boosts my mood and releases some of my tension. If you aren’t in the best of shape, take a walk outside. Anything that gets your body moving is beneficial. However, if you are looking for a quick intense workout, I suggest Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide. Over the summer, when I got home from a stressful day of work and didn’t feel like driving to the gym, I would just go in my basement to exercise. I downloaded the ebook to my phone and just followed the workouts. They are easy to follow, but definitely make you sweat. The best part is that it only takes 28 minutes a workout!

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Before I start this blog, I would like to explain why managing stress is so important for me. I am a very anxious person, so I often find myself overwhelmed in situations that do not warrant it. I’m not talking about the little excess stress you get when you know you have a test coming up, or that burst of adrenaline you get when you procrastinate until the last second to do something. I am talking about the stress and anxiety that makes you shut down. The kind that prevents you from breathing or thinking clearly.

It was fine in high school because the stress I had wasn’t great enough to allow me to see my problem. In college, where the real pressure of being an independent adult set in, I learned that these were panic attacks. I realized I couldn’t go on like this because I was holding back from doing normal, every day activies. Recently, I have needed to deal with stress more than ever because I am studying for the LSAT, which as you can imagine is very strenuous. I want to help other people like me who know how great they can be without the panic attacks get rid of their unnecessary stress.

wine nights

One of the easiest ways to destress is to spend time with friends and family. I have personally found this to be comforting and relaxing. I surround myself with people who are good influences on me. They are motivated, but know when it is time to take a break. My friends and I often hold wine nights at our house here at school. Instead of going out to bars when I am stressed and binge drinking the problems away, I much rather hang out at home with friends with a glass of wine. The wine has a calming effect and can help you fall asleep at night. Of course, the wine should be consumed in moderation! It seems too easy to be true, but it taking a break allows you to clear your mind. Recently, when I become frustrated and feel hopeless at the end of a long day of studying for the LSAT, I unwind with my friends. The next day I am able to go back to studying with a fresh mind. Sometimes you need to step away from the situation in order to see it better.

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