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Alt 04-11-2008, 20:54   #1
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Standart Levels of Usage and Perceived Benefits of Relaxation Methods and Other Methods, for C

Levels of Usage and Perceived Benefits of Relaxation Methods and Other Methods, for Coping with Stress, Among Turkish University Students
Abstract
In this study, 24 and 10 Turkish university students filled in two different questionnaires. The first questionnaire was asked to the students in general and it was about the ways that students are using to cope with stress and the effects of these methods, 24 students answered this questionnaire. The second one was for students who are using relaxation exercises and it was about the effectiveness of the relaxation exercises to cope with stress and their benefits or harms to the health, 10 students answered this questionnaire. The results showed that in spite of the few usage of relaxation exercises in Bilkent University, they are more effective than the other methods to cope with stress and relaxation exercises are rather used by students, especially females, whose lives are generally very stressful.
Introduction
Family, marriage, work and even our own thinking can become sources of stress. Life today is more stressful than life in the past because, day-by-day, earning money has been getting more difficult and people are working too hard to live. Money has become the first aim of people and this aim has made people ambitious. This financial ambition causes stress in the working times and daily lives of people and also causes some problems in the relationships between people. The stress of daily life is carried to the family and also relationships between people have been becoming more stressful. For example cheating and dishonesty increased. The reliance between people decreased. All of the sources of stress have some connections between each other. Often the best we can do is find ways of effectively coping.
There are several common activities that are useful for coping with stress. All people are doing something to cope with stress. Some of the activities that people are doing tend to work out but some of them don’t and also may have negative effects. For example, the most common beneficial activities are playing sports, taking exercise or doing relaxation exercises. The most common harmful activities are drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Generally young people in Turkey have used these two activities very frequently.
According to Marianne Ross (1998), “learning how to relax, really relax, can have a far-reaching influence on the quality of your life and there is a difference between ‘vegging’ and taking time to engage in activities that produce deep relaxation.” This deep relaxation can be by relaxation exercises. Nowadays, meditation and yoga come to mind when thinking of relaxation exercises.
Many people think that yoga and meditation are the same but they are not the same. According to Ren Fields (2000), “yoga is a specific method of harmonizing all the positive and negative forces within the body. The eight limbs of yoga are practiced and the meditation is the uninterrupted flow of concentration in the mind which is an important limb of yoga.”
There are also many types of yoga and meditation. The most known meditation types are transcendental meditation (TM), mindfulness meditation, Zen, Buddhist and Taoist meditation. The Zen Buddhist and Taoist meditation are from the eastern tradition and they are in the form of religions. The most known yoga types are hatha yoga, mantra yoga, Tanta yoga, raja yoga and nana yoga. The only difference between these all types is the techniques by which they are done. But their common aims are achieving peace of mind and discovering the internal power of the body.
They have also proven benefits on health. These benefits may be psychological or physical. Some of the psychological benefits are increased brain wave coherence, decreased anxiety, depression and irritability, improved learning ability and memory, increased self-actualization, happiness, emotional stability and feelings of vitality and rejuvenation (ICBS, Inc, 2002). The physical benefits are deep rest, decreased high pressure, higher skin resistance, a drop in cholesterol levels, reduction of unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage and younger biological age (ICBS, Inc, 2002).
Herbert Benson, M.D. (1975) explains the meditation experience as the ‘relaxation response’. He studied various yogis and longtime meditators and he discovered that meditation has many positive effects. For example, “muscle tension decreases, pressure drops, you feel relaxed and brain waves change from the busy beta-waves to the blissful Alfa-waves”. Dean Ornish, M.D. has demonstrated that “heart disease can be reversed with a comprehensive program that includes meditation” (ICBS, Inc, 2002). Many physicians consider meditation a key element of an integrated health program. Daeja Napier, founder of the Insight meditation Center and lay dharma teacher of insight meditation in suburban Boston says “meditation frees persons from tenacious preoccupation with the past and future and allows them to fully experience life’s precious moments” (ICBS, Inc, 2002).
Recently, in some troubled schools teachers have been carrying out some meditation programs with unruly children. After a pilot program the levels of bad behaviors decreased and the exam results improved. “Teachers in the deprived suburb of Paulsgrove, in Portsmouth, said the meditation classes had achieved ‘astonishing’ results in reducing aggression and improving pupil morale.” (Pyke, 2002) John Dunford, general secretary of the secondary heads association, said meditation could even help improve exam results.
In Turkey the stress is also at high levels. Because of the economic crisis, life has been becoming more expensive and people are working too much or they lose their jobs. Young people, especially university students, are also living very stressful because, studying in Turkey is very difficult, the lessons are too hard. These difficulties also cause stress in their daily life and in their relations between people. Divorce in Turkey has also been increasing. People are searching for activities to cope with stress and for that reason the usage of relaxation exercises has been increasing in Turkey.
In this study, the aim is trying to find out the usage and perceived benefits of relaxation methods in comparison to other methods in a Turkish university and to find out how much relaxation works for coping with stress.
Methods
I used two questionnaires in this study. The first questionnaire was for students in general and the second questionnaire was for people who are using relaxation methods. I asked two questionnaires because I would compare the answers of the two groups of students. The first questionnaire has 4 sections and 8 questions. The first section has two questions and they are about the ways people use to cope with stress. In the second section, there is one question and it is about the effects of these methods. The third section is formed with 4 questions and they are about the relaxation exercises. The last section has one question and it is about the stress levels of people. The second questionnaire has 3 sections and 7 questions. The first section is formed with 5 questions that are about the relaxation methods people use. The second section is about the effects of these methods and has one question. The last section has one question and it is about the stress levels of people using relaxation exercises. The questions 3 and 8 in the first questionnaire are same as the questions 6 and 7 in the second one. The questionnaires are presented in appendix 1
The subjects of this experiment were social science and communication and design students at a Turkish university. In the first questionnaire, I collected data informally by waiting outside the university building and asking students at random to fill in the questionnaire. For the second questionnaire I found 6 students who are using relaxation methods and asked them to fill in the questionnaire and I found another 4 people by chance when I was giving the first questionnaire to the students in general. The people who filled in the second questionnaire also filled the first one.
There were many students waiting outside the university building but few of them were willing to answer the questionnaire. 24 students filled the first questionnaire and 10 students filled in the second one. My impression was that the female and male students were equally likely to answer the first questionnaire. 12 females and 12 males answered the first questionnaire. I recorded the responses in Excel and the data is presented in appendix 2.
Results
The results of the study are rather complex because there were many questions to consider. For that reason, I will focus on only the important questions and their results.
Questionnaire 1: to students in general
Firstly, I will focus on the first questionnaire’s results. The answers to the first question, which was about the methods people use in coping with stress, are summarized in table 1 and 2 below. They show separately the number (and percentage) of males and females who are doing the various listed activities to cope with stress. The results show that there is a big difference between the male and female activities to cope with stress. For example, males much prefer socializing and females prefer listening to music. However, the biggest difference between male and female coping activities is males more often drink alcohol in order to cope with stress whereas; it is never used by females in my study. If we combine both male and female activities, the most popular activities are listening to music and socializing and than playing competitive sports. Bilkent university students unfortunately rarely use relaxation exercises. Only 2 males and 2 females reported using these exercises.
Males
Number %
Socializing 7 14,0%
Smoking cigarettes 6 12,0%
Playing on computer 6 12,0%
Drinking alcohol 6 12,0%
Competitive sports 5 10,0%
Listening to music 4 8,0%
Watching T.V. 3 6,0%
Watching matches 3 6,0%
Dancing 3 6,0%
Sleeping 2 4,0%
Relaxation exercises 2 4,0%
Taking exercise 1 2,0%
Shopping 1 2,0%
Being alone 1 2,0%
Reading 0 0,0%
TOTAL 50
Females
Number %
Listening to music 9 14,3%
Shopping 8 12,7%
Taking exercise 7 11,1%
Socializing 6 9,5%
Competitive sports 6 9,5%
Watching T.V. 5 7,9%
Reading 5 7,9%
Dancing 5 7,9%
Being alone 5 7,9%
Smoking cigarettes 2 3,2%
Relaxation exercises 2 3,2%
Playing on computer 2 3,2%
Sleeping 1 1,6%
Watching matches 0 0,0%
Drinking alcohol 0 0,0%
TOTAL 63
Table 1: Males activities to cope with stress Table 2: Females activities to cope with stress
The second question concerned the methods that people believe are most effective to cope with stress. The results show that the most effective activity is competitive sports. To be precise, males said that it is effective. 7 males and 2 females chose this activity as most effective. After competitive sports the most effective way to cope with stress is relaxation exercises. This time 2 females and 2 males found them most effective. Although the most effective activity among females is taking noncompetitive exercise, none of the males find this activity most effective. Finally, I think it is very interesting that 1 male and 1 female found smoking cigarettes and 1 male found drinking alcohol the most effective way. These results are presented in figure 1 below.










The answers to question3 show that the effects of these methods are generally positive. However, one of the people who smoke cigarettes experienced memory loss and bad health and the other experienced tiredness and she also felt herself selfish and passive. The person who found drinking alcohol the most effective method experienced headaches, tiredness, decreased tension, selfishness, hating others, decreased success at work and aggression, beside absence of stress. People who are doing competitive sports generally experienced tiredness but they reported better health. Although the relaxation users did not experience any negative effects, they also experienced many benefits of relaxation. I will talk about these benefits in the second questionnaires results.
Out of 24 randomly selected students, 4 of them are regularly doing relaxation exercises. 2 of them are doing yoga and one of them is doing chakra meditation and the other is doing transcendental meditation. Of these 2 are female and 2 male. All of them find it very effective to cope with stress. One female and one male had tried once. One tried yoga and one tried transcendental meditation and both found it ineffective to cope with stress.
People who did not try any of the relaxation methods generally said (question 7A) that they do not need it. 6 students do not need, 5 students do not know anything about these methods, two of them have no time, 3 are not interested and 2 think these methods are ineffective. Females are more likely to try it. 7 males but only 3 females would not consider trying it. 2 females are considering and 4 females and 1 male may try it. One male did not know whether he would try it.
The reported level of stress in these students is not very high. Generally females report more stress than males. 4 females and 1 male are living very stressful in general and 3 females and 1 male is living out of stress. 7 males and 3 females are not living very stressful and 2 females and 1 male are stressful. These results are presented in figure 2 below.








Questionnaire2: people practicing relaxation
There are 10 students who are doing relaxation exercises. 8 of them are female and 2 are male. 9 are practicing yoga and one female is doing meditation.
If we look at the effects of relaxation methods, all of them are positive. There are some effects that all of them experienced. These are; being calm and peaceful, profound happiness, better health, absence of anger, self-confidence improved and absence of stress. Except one of them all of them have been more successful at work and felt themselves unselfish after doing relaxation. The relaxation effects are closer to the competitive sports and noncompetitive exercises effects than other methods. Other methods were generally have different effects that change from people to people but relaxers generally experienced the same effects.
People, who are doing relaxation exercises, are generally living very stressful. 6 female’s and 1 male’s life is generally very stressful one female is living stressful and the others lives are not at all stressful. These results are presented in figure 3 in the next page. It is very interesting that people who are doing relaxation reported higher levels of stress than the other group.


Discussion
These results tell us many things that will be discussed and gives all of the aims of this study. According to the findings of this study, all of the students, which are reported, are doing one or more things to cope with stress. It means that all of the reported students try to relax. The methods that they use change from male to female very interestingly. For example, males are generally socializing themselves, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in order to cope with stress. In contrast females are generally listening to music, shopping and taking noncompetitive exercises. If we do not separate males and females, the most popular activities that students use are socializing and listening to music. However, none of these two activities are chosen the most effective way to cope with stress. The most effective way to cope with stress among Bilkent university students is competitive sports. Despite the few usage of relaxation exercises, they are second most effective way to cope with stress. Relaxation exercises are seen to be superior to other methods because, all of the students who are doing relaxation chose it most effective way. If we look at people who are doing relaxation results all of them said that they are effective to cope with stress and besides they have many benefits on their health, both physically and psychologically. There are some positive effects that all of the relaxers experienced. However, the effects of other activities excessively change people to people. It is seen that people who did not try relaxation methods generally do not need it, in other words, they are not living very stressful or they do not know anything about relaxation. It means if they are living very stressful or they know something about relaxation they may do it. Because, students who are doing relaxation are generally living very stressful and it seems that it is because of they started to do relaxation exercises. In short, the finding indicate that although, the relaxation exercises are not popular among Bilkent university students, they are more effective and beneficial than other methods and generally used by students whose lives are very stressful.
If I continued this study, the next I would do is get some students try relaxation exercises. During a one-month program observe the changes on their behaviors and health and ask them whether they will continue to do it or not. This time my study would be more scientifically and the findings would be more likely to be true and realistic because, the students would be observed and the changes would be seen.
After this study and after learning some proven benefits of relaxation, my opinion is students in Bilkent university should be encouraged to do relaxation exercises. Not only to cope with stress but also to have a better physical and psychological health.
Conclusion
In this informal study I wished to learn the usage and effects of relaxation methods and compare them with other methods that people use to cope with stress in a Turkish university. I obtained the results that relaxation exercises are not used much but they are beneficial and effective to cope with stress and usually very stressful students, especially females, use relaxation exercises. My study has also proved some benefits of the relaxation that Benson (1975) said in his study and I wrote in the introduction section. Really it is seen that relaxation works but it is not very popular among Bilkent university students.


References
Benson, H. (1975). The relaxation response. New York: Morrow


Fields, R. (January 2000). The difference between yoga and meditation. [Online]. Available: http://www.healingartsyoga.com/articles/fp_jan00.html. (05.05.2002)


ICBS, Inc. (January, 20, 2002). Benefits of meditation: physical benefits. [Online]. Available: http://www.holisticonline.com/medita...s_physical.htm. (04.05.2002)


ICBS, Inc. (January, 20, 2002). Benefits of meditation: psychological benefits. [Online]. Available: http://www.holisticonline.com/medita...chological.htm. (04.05.2002)


ICBS, Inc. (January, 20, 2002). Introduction. [Online]. Available: http://www.holisticonline.com/medita...tion_intro.htm. (04.05.2002)


ICBS, Inc. (January, 20, 2002). Psychological benefits of meditation: handling repressed memories and enjoying life. [Online]. Available: http://www.holisticonline.com/medita...chological.htm. (04.05.2002)


Pyke, N. (March 31, 2002). Schools turn to karma therapy to cut pupils aggression and improve results. [Online]. Available: http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/st...676686,00.html. (04.02.2002)


Ross, M. (April, 22, 1998). Meditation and relaxation: 20 minutes a day can make a difference. [Online]. Available: http://www.shpm.com/articles/stress/medrel.html. (04.03.2002)
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