By JOYCE LEE
Whether you’re young or old, you’ve probably dealt with stress. Some days, college seems to make my stress level go through the roof. With all the work I have (or know I will have), I almost feel as though I am being irresponsible if I don’t feel stressed out. Other days, I remind myself that stress is not only unnecessary, but that being happy and stress-free actually leads to a more successful academic and personal life. I know – easier said than done. Nowadays, stress seems to be one of those things that has become so common that people accept it as just a part of life.
Some people swear by the power of positive thinking when it comes to de-stressing, but when your mind is so cluttered with facts or things you have to do, something as cliché as “positive thinking” seems useless. Instead, I’ve found some simple, practical ways to best stop stress in its tracks.
1. Get some fresh air.
Simply changing your environment can help you put aside whatever stress you may be feeling. So take a walk. Even just a five to 10-minute walk can help you refocus your energy. If you absolutely don’t want to go outside, opening the window and breathing in some fresh air can also do the trick.
2. Meet up with a friend. And laugh.
Talking to someone (even if it’s not about what’s giving you stress) is another great way to refocus your thoughts and declutter your mind. Meeting with a friend just to laugh about something random can really help with stress levels. Everyone should try to get in a good laugh at least once a day.
3. Write it down.
Most of the time, I don’t even know what exactly is causing me stress. However, when I sit down with a pen and paper, I am able to organize my thoughts and find out what’s bothering me. That realization alone can make the situation less daunting and can instantly lessen stress.
4. Breathe in. Breath out.
For instant stress reduction, the simple act of taking a few minutes to just breathe is one of the best ways to relax.Deep breathing exercises have been shown to trigger the body’s relaxation response. The “relaxation response,” a term coined by Harvard Medical School Professor Herbert Benson, is defined as a physiological state of deep rest that alters the physical and emotional response to stress. The relaxation response is the opposite of the body’s “fight-or-flight” response to stress, and it can be achieved by centering practices like yoga, prayer, meditation and deep breathing exercises. Studies have shown that the relaxation response can alleviate anxiety and lower the heart rate.
5. (Healthy) stress eat.
While downing a pint of Cornell Dairy is always a fun time, rather than feeling relaxed, I just feel guilty and lazy afterwards. But some foods can actually help control your stress levels and lessen the guilt associated with stress eating.
Green Tea: While certain types of tea have some caffeine, black and green tea can help you relax. Green tea has an amino acid called theanine which is linked to reducing anxiety and promoting sleep.
Citrus: A hefty dose of vitamin C has been found to help people bounce back more easily from a stressful situation, as it helps decrease blood pressure and cortisol levels. So reach for an orange next time, or other foods high in vitamin C.
Dark Chocolate: There’s some benefit to craving something chocolate-y when times get tough. Studies have found that regular chocolate eaters have lower levels of stress hormones in their blood. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants called flavonoids, known for their relaxing properties.
6. Make a de-stress playlist
Music is a great tool to take the edge off of a stressful day. Try putting together a playlist of your favorite happy, mellow or throwback songs and make it your go-to for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. 8tracks has some great playlists for any mood you’re in. So put in your earphones, turn on your playlist, block out the voices in your head and walk confidently to your prelim!
7. Do something mindless.
Sometimes all it takes to de-stress is letting your mind chill out for a bit. Give yourself a break from your responsibilities. Do a crossword puzzle, read a book, watch family vlogs on YouTube (may I suggest “itsJudysLife”) or even take a short nap. Don’t forget that your mind needs rest too! My personal favorite “mindless” activity is a piano app called Smule. It is absolutely addicting.
8. Give yourself daily cut-off time. This is probably my most important yet most infrequently used tip when it comes to de-stressing. At the end of the day (and sometimes in the middle of the day) I force myself to shut off my computer, put my phone on silent and just focus on relaxation and “me time.” It’s so easy to get caught up in notes, essays and emails to the point that we find ourselves in what seems like a constant state of work. When I make relaxation a part of my daily routine, I find myself looking forward to it, and that automatically helps stress subside.
As we get closer to the end of the semester, it’s natural to feel stressed, overwhelmed and just tired. Use these tips however much or little as you need to stay motivated, optimistic or the least bit alive. And most importantly (because it’s never too early for Christmas hype), remember that the holidays are right around the corner, so get excited!
Joyce Lee is a freshman in the ILR School. Born and raised in Hawaii, she is a member of the Big Red Marching Band, a dog enthusiast and a firm believer in Chandler and Monica. Study Break appears on alternate Mondays this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.