Stress Management Tips for Stressed-out Students (Part 1)

If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities such as a full-time job, family responsibilities, and school, you have probably experienced some times of stress. OK, who are we kidding; you probably experience a lot of stress!

Stress can affect your health, your sleep, your emotional well-being, your relationships, and yes, your job and school performance. Chronic, ongoing stress can increase your risk for everything from the common cold to diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Here are some useful tips for overworked, stressed-out students to help you bring your life back into balance:

1: Get Enough Sleep

That may sound easier said than done, with your packed schedule, but it’s very important for your well-being and performance. Sleep deprivation, even a little, will make you less productive, make it harder for you to learn, and may make you less pleasant for others to be around. It can even make you a hazard on the road! Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, and take power naps if needed. It is worth the time!

2: Exercise Every Day

This may also sound like you’re being asked to add yet another thing to an already packed schedule, but getting even a small amount of exercise daily will help you release stress, increase your stamina (you need lots of that, right?), and improve your mental clarity. It may even help you live longer! A few minutes of yoga in the morning, a short walk or bike ride during the day, or even walking on the treadmill while you read tonight's chapter can be enough to make you feel happier and be more productive.

3: Listen to Music

Studies have shown that listening to music elevates your mood and helps you focus your mind. While catchy lyrics and a thumping beat are great for taking a dance break (see Tip #2!), you may find that something quieter and without lyrics makes a better backdrop for study. Suggestions: light jazz or classical; New Age; Tibetan meditative music; or even nature sounds. Try a few different things and see what works for you!

4: Eat Healthy

Let’s face it, most of us eat when we’re stressed. And stress hormones increase our cravings for “comfort foods” that are high in sugars, carbs, and fat, which are a recipe for blood sugar spike-and-crash cycles that increase stress and anxiety.

Instead of grabbing a soda, bag of chips, or candy bar when you’re stressed or tired, try a banana, some strawberries, or an orange; a cup of hot (decaf) tea; some whole-grain carbs like sweet potatoes, whole-grain bread or quinoa; or (my favorite!) a bite of dark chocolate. And don’t forget your water – even mild dehydration can increase cortisol, which in turn increases stress.

5: Breathe Deeply

Controlling your breath has also been shown to help reduce stress and focus the mind. Breathing deeply increases the supply of oxygen to your brain, sending a “calm down” message. This is why we tell people who are angry or upset to “take a deep breath” – it really does work. Doing regular deep breathing exercises will promote a general state of calmness and clarity. Here’s an easy one to try:

Sit or stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart; relax your hands and arms and close your eyes. Think about your lower abdomen and imagine a small balloon in that space. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose only, imagining the balloon filling slowly. Hold for a slow count of 5. Slowly exhale, blowing out through your mouth while imagining the balloon gently deflating.

Place one hand on your lower abdomen and feel your belly expand and contract. Be sure you’re not breathing from your chest; the movement should be out-and-in, not up-and-down. Repeat 10 times every day, and whenever you’re feeling stressed.

6: Do Something Creative

Do you have a crafty hobby? Are you a painter or musician? Or maybe you just like to color. There’s a reason why coloring books for adults have become so popular. Creativity has been scientifically shown to reduce the “stress hormone”, cortisol, and is linked to improved physical and emotional health. Focusing on a creative task engages our minds and distracts us from stressful thoughts and emotions. Whatever your skill level, there’s something you can do to get in touch with your inner artist!

These are just a few suggestions; I'll have many more coming up in future posts. Meanwhile, Stay Calm and Study On!

Cover photo credit;

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