Stress is a constant throughout our lives and we have plenty of opportunities to learn how best to deal with it. Academic stress can often be very difficult and anxiety-producing and can hinder successful school performance. Stress is a sign of our commitment to excel and also of our need for rest and moderation. Listen to your body, heart, and mind when stress becomes intense and practice self-care. Here are a few ways you might like to de-stress:
Be Your Own Friend
We sometimes feel that to be stressed means to be inadequate or to have failed in some way, but the truth is, everyone gets stressed sometimes and has to slow down and reconnect with themselves. If you feel pressured by others’ expectations or get caught up in self-criticism, take some time to remember your own strengths. What traits, actions, and relationships do you feel good about? Maybe you won a tennis match, aced a piano concert, or raised money for a local nonprofit. Maybe you made your sister laugh, helped your Mom move some furniture, or mastered a new dance move. Focus on the moments when you feel like your truest self. If you find that you are not having enough of those moments lately, commit to creating them and seeking them out. Professional Organizer Beverly Coggins, the author of Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student, reminds us that, “you can determine how you use your time or by default, let others plan it for you.”
Including activities that you love in your schedule is a great way to advocate for yourself and be your own friend. When you take care of yourself, you are letting yourself and others know that your priorities and wants are important. Listening to your inner voice helps you to become more attuned to your own needs. As you do this, you may be able to recognize your needs more often and verbalize them more quickly. This type of self-validation and self-love can be a powerful remedy for stress.
Express Yourself Creatively
As you practice listening to and befriending yourself, having a creative outlet is one way to release tension and expand your identity while gaining new skills. The performing and visual arts both offer a variety of fulfilling creative experiences. Creative writing is a powerful way to release pent up thoughts and emotions. Keeping a journal will allow you to have a conversation with yourself, practice writing a free stream of consciousness, vent, or keep track of goals, poems, and story ideas.
Along with creative expression, having fun and being silly are great stress reducers. For example, going to hear live music can help you to cut loose and forget about your troubles for a while. Hearing a performer that you connect with can be both uplifting and freeing. Travel is another great way to leave behind the daily grind. Even a short day trip with family or friends or a school field trip is an opportunity to experience yourself and the world in a new way. You can meet new people and encounter new possibilities and opportunities when you leave home, even if only for a short while. Do whatever else is fun for you, be it watching TV, blogging, coding, or hiking—have fun, play, and let your stresses go for a while.
Exercise and Get Fresh Air
While you are having fun, be sure to get in some physical activity and exercise. Movement can relieve tension and leave you feeling refreshed, especially if you’ve been laboring over books or a computer. The Mayo Clinic shares that, “physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.” Mindful movement practices such as yoga can calm your mind-body system. Psych Central tell us, “a healthy lifestyle is essential for students, especially at university level…take out time to get some air and exercise.” Fresh air and spending time in natural environments can be calming and explorative, connect us to our bodies’ senses, and instill a sense of connection and authenticity. It’s also important to eat well. A healthy diet can keep both your body and mind going strong, and some foods can even boost your memory.
Resting is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and should not be squeezed in absentmindedly after every other priority is attended to. Resting allows us to “just be,” and stop trying for a while. Whether your rest takes the form of a night of sleep, a nap, a breathing exercise, or a calming activity you love, it will give you a chance to relax and renew. Getting between seven and 10 hours of rest helps your brain to function effectively. When you forget to rest or choose not to rest, your exhaustion will often end up making you less productive. Campus Calm states that, “sleep should be the first thing that goes on our master schedules to calm college student stress,” and this certainly refers to younger or older students as well.
When you feel the stresses of your life accumulating, plan a de-stressing break before they reach a peak. Or, if they’ve already peaked, immediately take some time for self-care. You deserve it!
Written by Julia Travers
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