1. Find an activity or hobby you like doing and do it!
I don’t think I fully understood the importance of having an activity that I enjoy doing by myself until I was well into my college years, and to be honest, it took me awhile to find something I truly enjoyed doing. Often times I like to say that working in student media is my de-stress activity, but then I also have to admit that sometimes it’s the cause of my stress. As a science major though, it’s nice to escape the world of cells and systems and be present in what is happening on campus and in the world.
For me, the activity I like to do whenever I’m stressed is craft. I love working with my hands to create something beautiful out of modest supplies. My Pinterest account has several boards dedicated to DIY projects of any type ranging from jewelry to home decor to cute and simple fashion projects. I used to shy away from my crafting addiction because, especially as a college student, I didn’t see value in spending money on things that weren’t necessities, but I’ve come to realize that allowing myself a creative outlet is integral in helping myself stay focused and be calm.
2. Go for a run or do some other physical activity.
I have to admit that this can be filed under “New Years resolutions that never make it past January”, but running or some other physical activity is a great way to de-stress. Our editor-in-chief makes it a point to spend some time each day working out or playing basketball and that’s how he de-stresses in the midst of work and school. For me personally, this used to be incredibly important for me in high school when I was more active. It’s still nice to be able to go out for a run whenever I need to get my mind off of something that’s making me anxious.
This is kind of the opposite of my second point, but meditating can be a really good way to de-stress or mentally prepare yourself for something coming up. I try to make use of this in my daily walk to work and class each day. I put in my headphones and just go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll stop and sit at a bench or on the Plinth and let my mind wander for a little bit and then when I’m ready, I head back inside and get back to work or studying.
4. Spend some time with your friends.
In my freshman regrets post, I mention wishing I had spent more time nurturing and keeping my friendships and relationships with those around me. It’s also an important way to de-stress and have some fun. Frequently, my friends are the ones who keep me grounded when I’m too cocky and bring me up when I have self-doubt. It’s also good to be able to focus on something besides the deep insides of my brain.
5. Write a letter to someone.
Scientific studies have shown that writing is a great way to de-stress, and while I agree and strongly think that a great way to do that is through journalistic means, sometimes it’s also nice to just write a letter to your best friend or significant other. Plus, one of the best things in life is getting a handwritten letter or postcard in the mail from someone you care about.
6. Cook or bake.
My co-workers like this one a lot because whenever I’m at the tip of my stress, I bake — cookies, brownies, muffins, cupcakes — and then I bring it into the office for everyone to eat so I’m not the one gaining weight from my baking escapades. Another variation of this is to cook. This is something I picture doing on Sunday’s in mental and nutritional preparation for the next week. Plus it’s cheaper than eating out every single day.
7. Chew some gum or eat a snack.
Also related to No. 6 is sometimes when you’re stressed out and having trouble focusing, it’s nice to put something in your body of nutritional value. You’re giving yourself a bit of an extra energy boost and you’re allowing your brain to take a short beak from focusing on whatever you’re working on.
8. Participate in a community service event.
As an undergraduate, I was involved in a service fraternity. We would do community service projects multiple times a week, and it became something that was important to me. It was nice to take a break from focusing hard core on school or work and be able to give back a little bit to my community.
9. Watch a funny movie or television show.
One of the best solutions for stress is to just laugh like crazy. The best way to do that is to just watch something funny: a movie, TV show or YouTube video can be just what the doctor ordered for those days where you feel like you’re brain is going insane from everything you have to do.
10. Take a nap.
When all else fails, take a nap. It’s also important to note that whenever preparing for a big exam, it’s important to get a decent night’s sleep. I know I sound like a broken record here, but sleep is important for consolidating memories and moving the stuff you learned that day from your short term to your long term memory.
At the end of the day, the best way to de-stress and prevent yourself from becoming over-stressed is to take time out to fill your tank with the things that mean the most to you and that you enjoy doing. Stress is important for doing your very best, but too much actually hinders your performance.