In the last weeks of the semester, it's easy -- even expected -- for college students to spiral down into an inescapable abyss of stress caused by extra homework, studying, packing, and moving out. And, for some students, everyday stress-relievers like facemasks and candles aren't enough to mitigate these high-stress levels; it might be necessary to try something new. One easy, straightforward de-stressor is journaling.
"Journaling can be a great stress reducer through organizing one's thoughts, clearing one's mind, and facilitating problem-solving," wrote health and well-being educator Lisa Tams for Michigan State University.
Stream-of-consciousness journaling is likely the most straightforward way to clear your mind. Write down your thoughts and feelings as they come -- whether they are good or bad, whether they make sense or not -- throw them all out onto the page.
According to Tams, this act "forces you to focus on internal awareness of the present and process thoughts and emotions in the here-and-now," allowing you to clearly channel your focus into what is truly important to you, reducing your overall stress.
If you don't know where to start or simply can't untangle your thoughts, consider using a prompt. Confession: I have a Pinterest board dedicated to writing prompts like "right now I'm struggling with…" and "my life in five years looks like…." Prompts like these can help you unravel the root of your stress and begin to solve problems, or they can exercise your imagination and take your mind off of current stressors.
However, the journaling starting point that I repeat over and over again is gratitude. Sometimes I will simply write my blessings down in a numerical list as they come to mind, or sometimes I'll write in a prayer style -- for example, "Dear God, thank you for today. Thank you for waking me up, and please show me why. Thank you for the Florida sun -- it reminds me why I'm here. Thank you for every opportunity in store for me." Even a short entry like this is enough to calm me down significantly and shift my attitude towards thankfulness and healthy optimism, setting the tone for my day.
But journaling is not limited to mornings only; it can be extremely effective during study breaks or before bed as part of a winding-down routine. It can be customized to fit any preferences -- you get to choose what to write about, where to write, how to write. Do you like writing in a nice notebook with a juicy black pen? In your iPhone notes? In a Word document? Do you prefer to spill your thoughts onto page after page, or would you rather jot down ideas into quick, clear lists?
Experiment with different journaling methods to see what works best for you. Especially with finals week drawing near, journaling is a valuable stress-relief tool. As homework ramps up, try using journaling to stay clearheaded and focused through these last weeks of the semester.