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7 Ways to De-Stress for Swamped Students
As we approach the final stretches of the fall term, it’s common to notice a frantic energy filling the campus. Most students’ days are being eaten up completely by final projects, last-minute studying, extracurricular obligations, and just plain worrying about all of the above.
When you’re that busy, it can be impossible to find time to properly decompress. In light of this, it might be helpful to consider these 7 bite-sized ways to alleviate some of the built-up stress in your system.
1) Try taking responsible naps.
If you find your energy slipping in the middle of the day, a brief nap is often a healthier, more effective way to reboot your system than a dose of caffeine. Too often, students consider naps a waste of time or a dangerous luxury that can quickly consume an entire afternoon. However, a good nap done right can actually relieve stress and give a quick boost to mood and productivity. If you’re busy with studying for exams, a catnap is also a great way to consolidate memory and recharge your brain so it can more effectively absorb information.
Most sources say the optimal nap length is between 20 to 30 minutes. Any longer than that, and you’re likely to feel groggy and tired, unless you sleep the full 90 minutes it takes to complete one sleep cycle. So, make sure to lie down somewhere dark and set up a loud, reliable alarm to make the most of naptime.
Hint: naps can be even more effective if you do them at the same time every day. Consistency is key!
2) Clean. Yes, clean!
In times of stress, it can be impossible to find the time or energy to take care of yourself physically, let alone mentally. Even something as seemingly basic as personal hygiene can feel daunting.
A hot shower and some toothpaste are surprisingly excellent sources of immediate stress relief. But when even these bathroom tasks feel unappealing, or if you're stuck on campus and need to freshen up, there are many handy, temporary alternatives out there to make you feel slightly more refreshed. A big pack of wet wipes and some minty chewing gum or mouthwash are little things that make a big difference. A facial towel soaked in hot or cold water can relieve physical tension and leave you feeling cleaner and fresher.
If you have a bit of time and your personal hygiene is all taken care of, doing some simple household chores, like washing the dishes or vacuuming the floor can gift you with both a sense of accomplishment and a more soothing environment to live and/or work in. A good idea is to focus your cleaning and de-cluttering efforts on just one room of your apartment, like your bedroom.
3) Take a break by getting outside.
Never underestimate the power of fresh air, even as we rapidly transition to winter. Bundle up and take a walk to grab a coffee, meet the therapy dogs that visit Waterloo campus every week, or simply breathe and let yourself do anything but work for a little while. Look at some greenery, go jogging, listen to music, or even just make a loop around the block to clear your head.
4) Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques.
A research study from our very own University last term shows that just 10 minutes of meditation can boost focus and help with anxiety.
If you want to turn this into a group activity, you can Google places offering free yoga and meditation sessions around Kitchener-Waterloo. For a more private experience, consider carving out even just 5 to 10 minutes of your day to do some simple meditation exercises with apps like The Mindfulness App or Stop, Breathe,Think. Check out YouTube or Google for countless more meditation and breathing exercises.
5) Take the time to socialize.
When crunch time hits, it makes sense for many students to put social activities on the back-burner. Even if you don’t think you have the time to party or go out for dinner with friends, smaller, simpler nuggets of socialization can still be helpful to combat stress.
Take a few minutes to vent to your roommate, or pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. If you have a lot of work to do, consider inviting a buddy over for a study date. Call or video conference a friend while you’re doing your readings or on a Netflix break, even if neither of you are talking. It can be a great comfort to just be connected with others for a while, whether you’re with them in-person or not.
6) Make a to-do list.
A to-do list can be more than just a tool for time management. When you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it can be tremendously helpful to write out all of the immediate tasks that need to be done. Then you can organize the items in terms of priority, set achievable goals for the night, and adjust the list as needed. Break down your mountain of responsibilities into digestible chunks.
The satisfaction that comes with meeting a goal and crossing off a to-do item, no matter how small, is also a great little shot of stress relief.
7) Reach out. Talk to somebody.
If for any reason you are ever feeling overwhelmed, or simply need an ear outside of your social circle to talk to, please consider one of the resources on campus. Mentor Assistance Through Education and Support (MATES) is a one-on-one peer counselling program offering drop-in hours from Monday to Friday.
However you choose to de-stress, remember to take care of you during finals.