It was September 3rd, 2012. I had been living in Germany for a little under a year when I first became a student at Montessori Schule Clara Grunwald. This school was completely German speaking, a language that I had very little prior knowledge of.
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My German capabilities were limited to a few numbers, and colors. Being immersed in a new school is a stressful event, let alone being immersed in one that is foreign, and non-English speaking. As a 10-year-old, the transition was one that I had welcomed, however I did not realize the extent of the stress that I would be under.
Stress is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” In my case, I was mentally drained due to the demanding, and completely new environment that I found myself in. Imagine being plucked from comfort, and from normality, and then being thrown into foreign experiences, and a new life, in complete ignorance. I did not know the language, or the culture of the German people, but the real struggle, and stress started the moment I entered the school. There were people my age who I could not communicate with, and who did not understand what I was feeling. I did willingly, and quite eagerly, want to learn German, but it just couldn’t come fast enough. This waiting, and high anticipation for something that would take time, caused me to become nervous, and to lose faith in myself. I had an unrealistic expectation of how long it would take me to become fluent in the language, and comfortable at the school, thus creating stress.
Most would agree that everyone encounters some form of stress daily. The question is, how can it be dealt with? The American Institute of Stress found in a study that mental health is in fact improved through participation in physical activity, such as sports, or exercise (Rosch). In Germany, I was a member of a swim team, which allowed me to relieve the stress of the day after school. I was unaware at the time how much the activity helped me to get through stress, but looking back, I am not what would have happened if it had not been for my daily swim.
Another stress relieving technique is finding a quiet place, and cooling down by taking multiple deep breaths. This technique is one of the oldest in the book, but it was recommended especially for young people by Michael Eisen, founder of Youth Wellness Network (Stress Relief). He describes this technique as an “in-the-moment” stress reliever. During my first month at the German school, my fifth-grade class was studying the 16 states of Germany. As there were 16 students in the class, each of us was assigned a state, and required to present a poster. I remember being frightened at the prospect of presenting in German to the whole class, but I prepared, and studied heavily. When it came time for me to present, I looked out at everyone in the class, lifted my notes, and began, as best I could, my presentation on the state of Saxon (Sachson). I had tried to keep it simple by sticking to short sentences, but by mid presentation, a wave of stress hit me, and I began sobbing. Multiple students jumped up, and murmured what I assume were soothing words, but because I could not understand them, it just added to my stress. I left the room crying, and when I entered the empty hall, I realized that it was a perfect space to just breath. I took multiple deep breaths, and was able to calm myself down enough to reenter the classroom, and finish my presentation, as best I could.
The presentation break-down resulted from an in-the-moment type stress. However, I have also noticed that there is a constant stress, a stress that sticks around, and that builds up over time if not relieved. The daily stress of trying to communicate with my peers in Germany was a constant stress. Every now and then, it would build up enough that I would seek someone out, just to cry and vent. Although venting may not seem like a great stress reliever, for me it truly helped. I was able to put the situation into perspective, and realize that my stress would be relieved, if only for time. That epiphany was a comfort to me, as were the words of the people I vented to. As psychologist Ethan Schafer, PhD, simply states in a magazine titled, Stress Relief, “Reach out to others for support.” I did reach out for support, and my stress was tremendously reduced as a result of that. The constant stress of my situation weighed me down, but through venting, and reaching out, I was able to overcome my struggles.
Stress is an overwhelming, and uncomfortable feeling that everyone experiences. It is something that cannot be cast aside, because it will build up and continue to weigh you down. Numerous stress relieving techniques exist, but in the end, it comes down to what works best for you. I found that physical activity, deep breaths, and support from others helps me to relieve my stress. These techniques got me through a stressful patch in my first couple of months at a German school. By the fourth month, I experienced little to no stress, and was able to communicate, as well as understand, German. By the first year, I was considered fluent in the German language, and by the end of the second year, my pronunciation was indistinguishable from that of the native German kids. I would not have accomplished this if it was not for my persistence, and for my stress relieving techniques that allowed me to be so persistent, and ambitious. Stress is tough, but stress relieving techniques not only exist, but are effective, as my personal experience demonstrates.
Rosch, Paul J. “Management.” The American Institute of Stress, 19 Jan. 2017,
“Stress | Definition of Stress in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English,
Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/stress.
“Stress relief.” Camping Magazine, May-June 2014, p. 6. General OneFile,
Accessed 4 Dec. 2017.
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