College. It's hard. It's stressful. It'll spit you up and throw you out quicker than that professor who always switches to the next slide before you can finish taking notes from the previous one.
Okay, that last statement was a bit of an exaggeration, but getting an undergraduate education is not for the faint of heart. Between crazy class schedules, unending tests and quizzes, mountains of homework, getting involved in extracurricular events, attempting to maintain a social life, possibly working a part-time job or two, practicing "adulting", and all other activities you add to your schedule, college can quickly become an overwhelming feat. If you're an undergraduate student, you may have asked yourself at one time or another how you're supposed to balance everything that comes at you. How are you supposed to get good grades and get a solid night of sleep? How are you expected to maintain strong relationships with friends if you are at work between your classes and extracurriculars? The more these questions get asked, the more stress, anxiety, and hopelessness can pile up in a person.
Take a Hike.
Literally, take a hike! Getting active and doing something outdoors can have positive effects on your mental and physical health. Research from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that physical activity can help you think and learn more clearly. It can also combat depression and help you get a better nights' sleep*. Whether you have an open Saturday to summit a mountain, or 15 minutes between class to go on a walk, get outside and take a breath of fresh air.
Write it Down.
If you are a visual learner like myself, you would greatly benefit from getting yourself a planner - and actually utilizing it. Take time to write down all of your academic information for the semester/quarter: homework due dates, tests, quizzes, paper deadlines, presentations, etc. Then, map out your work schedule, extracurricular activities, events, appointments, and other commitments. Writing your life out in one sitting can cause your heart rate to rise at first, but doing so gives you an opportunity to see where your pockets of free time are, and give you something to look forward to. Plus, you'll have peace of mind knowing you do not have remember all of your important dates and deadlines - they're written out in front of you! If there's more ink than blank space in the planner, just remember to take each day little by little - don't worry about everything all at once!
Do What You Love - Alone.
Taking time to be alone can be great for someone with a busy and/or stressful life. Get away from homework, people, and responsibilities and enjoy the stillness of just being you. Leigh Weingus, a healthy living writer for the Huffington Post, says that taking time to be alone can help you clear your mind. She states, "Our brains need to rest and recharge in order to function as well as we want them to. So even if you’re not an introvert, alone time is still important for processing and reflecting."** In your alone time, find something you love to do such as listening to a specific music genre, crocheting, practicing an art or skill, reading your Bible and spending time with Jesus, playing an instrument, or just chilling in a comfortable and relaxing environment. Sometimes when you begin to feel overwhelmed (or are way beyond the overwhelmed state), even if you have an activity planned that day, it can be a good idea to move your schedule around and get in some serious "me time". You won't believe how rejuvenating it can be!
Let it aaaaaalllllllllllllllllllll Out.
Let's be real: sometimes, you just want to scream and hit things. We've all been there. Some of us feel like we live there. But that's okay! Life is hard, struggles happen, and frustrations are pretty much a daily guarantee. When things get tough and you find yourself wanting to do the unthinkable and kick a puppy or two, find someone you trust. Whether it be a parent, friend, sibling, advisor, etc., find someone who you can be unashamedly open and raw with on how you're feeling. Then let it all out. Talk, cry, and vent to them about your frustrations, your worries, your stress. If you need to yell, find somewhere away from others and shout to the hills. Doing this alone can be beneficial, but having someone there to listen to you is a bonus. Sometimes you may only want them to listen and not speak. Other times, they may relate to you on a level you thought you were alone in. Believe me, sometimes those angry, tear-filled phone calls to my mom were exactly what I needed to de-stress.
Two very common words for you: just breathe. This phrase gets said often. Although they may seem a bit overused to you, there is truth to the calming effects of taking in a few deep breaths throughout the day. An article published by Harvard Medical School explains that deep breathing slows your heart rate and stabilizes blood pressure - therefore reducing stress and relaxing your body***. Practicing deep breathing first thing in the morning, before an exam, in the middle of a difficult sports practice, and before bed can help take the edge off of current stress. Deep breathing also refocuses your mind and helps snap your body to attention.
There are many ways to combat the pressures and stresses of college. Some methods may work swimmingly for one person while not help anything for another. Along with the previous list of methods, you can color, see a counselor (many schools offer a certain number of free counseling sessions for students), find a new hobby, keep a journal to let your thoughts out, or take up kickboxing. Whatever might help you best, go for it!
It's extremely difficult to be 100% stress free all of the time, but making small efforts to chip off pieces of tension piling up on your shoulders can make a significant difference when it comes to your health and well-being. Whatever you might be going through, whatever meltdowns stress and anxiety may have caused you, know that you are not alone! I believe in you, and so do your peers, professors, and those closest to you. Keep your head up, you majestic human, you!