In everyday life, stress ebbs and flows. Some days it feels as though you are finally reaching a healthy balance; other days make you wonder if it is actually possible to get everything done.
As I have gone through my first year of college, this pattern has rung true. Some days I can get everything done, and relax before going to bed at a reasonable hour. Other days, I fall into bed at 3am after a long day of work, appointments, meetings, classes, music practices, dance classes, and presentations.
I have developed a few strategies to manage that mind-racing stress that inevitably comes with an extensive to-do list, and I hope they help you rise above those weeks of intense workloads.
Identify and Acknowledge the Stress:
This may sound quite obvious, but I have found that I tend to ignore my stress until it becomes too much to manage. Instead of acknowledging it, I hide it away and attempt to press on with my crazy to-do list. Last week I found an article related to stress, and consequently stumbled upon a great piece of advice: If I find myself getting that out-of-breath hyper-stressed feeling, I stop what I am doing and take a moment to think about what I am really feeling. Am I angry? Frustrated? Sad? A mixture of emotions? Pinpointing the emotions that you are feeling makes your brain feel as though they are now tangible and manageable, as opposed to hidden and unreachable. Once you take a moment to assess how you are really feeling, you can then think about why you are feeling this way. Is it the homework assignment? Social stress? Both? Once you identify the cause, you are one step closer to a solution.
Take Time to Think About What You Need:
It is amazing how often we ignore our own needs and focus on the tasks at hand. While it is great to have excellent focus, it is equally important to check in with yourself and identify what you need. Sometimes it is as simple as a study break, a snack, or a 20 minute nap. Other times it is more complicated, such as needing a tutoring session for a class or a counseling session at your health center. All of these are very legitimate needs, and should not be ignored. As soon as I started to stop and think about what I really needed, I became much more in tune with my body and my stress. I can now identify almost immediately what I need, which allows me to return to my work refreshed and more relaxed. Along those lines, I always make sure that my room is stocked with healthy snacks and tea for whenever I need them.
Write in a Journal:
I have been writing in a journal for many years, and it has helped me overcome my struggles and look back on past experiences. I learn a lot about how to handle situations from my past experiences, and feel a sense of relief when I put my frustrations down on paper. I simply take my journal, find a comfortable place to sit, and free write all of my feelings. I let go of concern over grammar and format, and simply write from the heart. My journal entries are stream-of-consciousness feelings, which allows me to think about my needs, my emotions, and potential solutions. Journals can also be used for positive experiences, and I have found that having a balance between positive and negative entries allows me to remember all that happened (not just the negative aspects).
While browsing around Google Play, I found an interesting app called Stop, Breathe, and Think. This is one of the best apps that I have found for meditation, and it works for any schedule. You start by selecting your top 5 current emotions from an extensive list. The app then personalizes a set of meditations for you. They range between 5 and 20 minutes, so you can pick one (or more!) that works best for your current schedule. These meditations have helped me to devote time to checking in with how I am feeling, and pinpointing my emotions. It also helps you develop reasonable solutions, and get back on track. This has been a lifesaver for me, especially in the past week!
Take a Mini-Vacation:
This past weekend, two friends and I traveled to a nearby city to get away from our small campus environment. There are many advantages to going to a small school, but you definitely start to feel claustrophobic after a few weeks. We had just finished an exhausting week of work, and decided that a mini-vacation was in order. We planned out our activities and had an amazing time. We stopped by various shops, ate at an amazing sandwich and smoothie restaurant, and got to experience city life for a day. By the time we got back to campus, we felt refreshed and ready to start working again. Sometimes all it takes is a physical break from the space you are in, and a mental recharge from a different environment.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help:
There is a significant stigma around counseling and other services designed to help you get through tough situations. It seems as though the expectation is that we are all perfect, and that people who need counseling services are too weak to handle situations on their own. This is a really sad phenomenon, especially since counseling offers what you can’t get on your own: an outsider perspective. Sure, you could talk to your friends and family about some of the problems you are facing, but a counselor is void of situational bias. They can help you with whatever you are facing, and present you with solutions that you might not have been able to reach before. If you are a college student, oftentimes your college will offer free counseling services through the health department. Counseling can be quite expensive otherwise, so take advantage of this opportunity! I have gone to my college counselor numerous times, and every time I am glad that I went. I am presented with solutions to problems that seem un-fixable, and my stress goes from debilitating to manageable.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s post! I have been going through a lot of changes and stress recently, and wanted to post about how I have been able to overcome those feelings. What are your strategies for reducing stress?
© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.