As any college student will easily admit, school is extremely stressful. Maintaining a social life or a work job, or even sanity can seem almost impossible while also dealing with midterms, projects, assignments, and lectures. During our busy schedules, trying not to go into a tailspin can become a constant struggle, and it’s easy to even get stressed about how much stress we have!
Many others will probably agree: Spring Break was so needed, but also so short. It was like the glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, but when you almost get there, it disappears. The stress of school returns in full force, and we’re stuck counting down the days and watching our motivation go down the drain at the same time. That’s why I put together a list of eight small things that I do to help me destress, and how to do them amidst a busy schedule.
1. Have a morning routine.
This one is super important! Morning routines don’t have to take up a lot of time. For me, mine is simple: Wake up, shower, blow-dry my hair, clean my earrings, grab a bite of food and head out the door to school. I do it, in the same way, every day and it provides that sense of comfort and familiarity throughout a busy day. And don’t be afraid to change it up if you’re feeling more/less confident about it! Throw some makeup on, if you feel like it, or skip the shower one morning.
2. Practice mindful breathing.
When you’re stressed, it makes everything harder to do. It makes it harder to concentrate on things, harder to get work done, and harder to be happy. That’s why, when I get stressed, I like to start with the very basics: breathing. Breathing exercises are easy to do and keep you grounded—and they don’t take long! You can do anything from sitting, closing your eyes and being aware of your breaths, or full exercises that you’ve found and enjoy. Stop, Breathe & Think is a YouTube channel that provides excellent guided breathing exercises.
3. Take care of something.
If you’re like me, then I’m willing to try anything to make things less stressful and easier on my heart and mind. What I’ve found is that taking care of something, whether it be plants, pets, or other people, helps me to feel better about myself and brings me enough happiness to get through the day.
As of now, I take care of four little succulents. They get watered once a week and sunlight every day. It’s not much, but it provides comfort and when I look at them and I feel accomplished for keeping them alive for so long. It’s that feeling of accomplishment that makes stress run away!
4. Don't be afraid to say no.
This one is really hard for me. Friends ask you to go out to eat, the family wants to go see a movie and work wants you to come in for an extra shift. It’s hard to say no because you don’t want to let them down or disappoint them. But you have to think like you’re on an airplane: In the event of an emergency, take care of yourself first and then others after. Stress might not be an emergency, but it will only get worse if you don’t deal with it. That’s why, when you’re in a position where it’s already hard to handle what you have going on, it’s important to say no to extra things. Don’t overwork yourself!
5. Surround yourself with positive people.
When you’re stressed, negativity can make things even worse for you. I know that when I have to deal with a lot, I make a point to stay away from acquaintances, coworkers, and people I know that are pessimistic or are easily annoyed because it brings me down and makes it harder for me to be productive. Ultimately, nobody wants to do work when they’re unhappy, so why not surround yourself with people who bring out the good in you? I’m at my most productive self when I’m in the library, sitting next to my boyfriend and listening to good music. It’s the simple choices like that that helps you relax—even if you don’t know it’s happening.
6. Reward yourself, but stay balanced.
After you get something accomplished, reward yourself! It’s good practice to associate hard work with a positive outcome, so don’t be afraid to buy yourself a nice coffee, a break on social media or watch an episode of your favorite show. Make sure that you keep on after that, though, and continue to earn those rewards! We all know that the next episode or a longer break can be tempting, but we want to avoid procrastination and promote a good work-ethic. The more you do this, the better you get, and overall it really helps in stress management.
7. Go outdoors.
Go outdoors! Take in the sunshine for a few minutes during a break, do your school work on the back porch or balcony and enjoy the day. Getting 10-15 minutes worth of sunshine, or vitamin D, has shown to increase levels of serotonin, which is known for increasing both mood and concentration. Here's an article on it. Plus, it's springtime, and it's been beautiful in Florida. Take a minute to soak it all in and enjoy it. It's worth it, I promise!
8. Take time for yourself.
This one is probably the most important one out of all of these suggestions. Set aside some time for you, personally. Do what makes you happy and don't cancel it unless you absolutely have to. For example, my big stress reliever is rock climbing. I go twice a week for two-to-three hours. I don't cancel on it unless I need to, because not only do I love it, but it keeps me sane.
Whatever you choose doesn't have to be exercise (although it's shown to be a great stress reliever). It can be watching a movie, cooking or reading a book for whatever time you set aside. It's both healthy and important during a crazy semester and busy schedule that you keep some time for you. It keeps you sane, and stops you from turning into a homework-completing robot.
I hope these suggestions help, and if you have any comments, don't be afraid to post what de-stresses you!