Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard it all. Meditation, deep breathing, take a nap, positive affirmations, etc. Not to say these things aren’t beneficial or practical strategies, but what are some other stress relief methods? You know, ways to simmer down and not feel like you’re going to pummel the next zen yogi on your Insta feed telling you to just “go with the flow.” It’s a bit late to start building the foundation when the house is already on fire.
So, what is stress? Essentially, it’s nature’s way of telling you to get alive, alert and on with it! A little stress is a good thing, but during exam season I doubt anyone is feeling just a “little” bit of stress. Unfortunately, there’s not always a way around big stressful things in life. Like most of the inevitable, just hulk smash it. Stop waiting for the tidal wave to crash over you and instead run straight into it.
This is your stress. It’s time to own up to that. It’s also time to realize that you’re the master of your own time (to some extent).
Sometimes there’s that feeling where the day isn’t going as planned or suddenly the world seems too overwhelming or imperfect or spinning way too fast. It’s difficult to not let that feeling consume you and allow anxiety to overpower the senses. Don’t allow yourself to fade into a procrastinating mindset where you tell yourself you’ll just restart tomorrow, it’ll be different tomorrow, you have to suffer through the day. You cannot live for tomorrow, you have to live for today!
Sometimes it’s alright to realize you need a day off, but sometimes you also need to wake up and revitalize the situation. Learn how to turn days where you got off on the wrong foot into optimal situations. Push back against that chokehold of stress and take responsibility for your existence, realizing that you have autonomy.
“Redo” the day. Take a shower, clean up and completely change your set of clothes or hairstyle. If it helps to redo your entire morning routine and brush those pearly whites a second time, go for it. Reset yourself and force the mind to calm down by bouncing back into familiarity and revitalization. Have you ever heard about the phenomenon of walking through a doorway and forgetting something? It’s kind of like that.
Reconstruct your study space or just completely move where that area even is. Do what you know will help to “restart” your day and make it so you can start fresh and slow down. For some it may help to drop everything and do a sweaty workout, clean up, change clothing and such. Some form of exercise, even a simple walk or jumping jacks/pushup circuit can help clear the mind real quick. This isn’t about forgetting your problems, it’s about putting you in the right frame of mind to deal with them.
If you’re at school when this overwhelming feeling hits and these previous tips aren’t possible, consider your alternatives. Identify what’s in your control, what’s out of your control and what’s causing these emotions. Worried about KPREP? Anxious over an upcoming test or final grade decider? Rationalize what’s going on in your head and force yourself to acknowledge what you can and cannot do in the situation. Maybe you’re worried about that big test; but, you can create a study outline and commit some time to that prep. Maybe you can’t control whether or not you take the test or the situations regarding it, but you can certainly control other factors. Become connected– not disconnected and upset– at your emotions.
Write everything down, text or throw crumpled paper balls at your friend, pass through a doorway if possible. You can even challenge yourself to do something different from your routine to show your brain that you are still in control.
Let it out
Energy is not created or destroyed; therefore, it has to go somewhere. Hopefully that somewhere isn’t all just within you.
If you need to scream or throw something, find a way to implement that (freaking out your neighbors or smashing an item of noteworthy value is, however, not beneficial.)
Let yourself cry, listen to music real loud and do sprints, expel that nasty gunk hanging over your head in some physical manner (a positive physical manner, that is. Please do not turn to self harm or force yourself to over-exercise, under-nourish or commit any other form of bodily harm towards yourself or others.)
Once you let it all out, be honest with yourself. What’s the real cause of your stress? And I mean the REAL cause. Yes, you have a test coming up. But why’s that affecting you so much? If you’re working your hardest and putting in all you’ve got, why’s your brain still slapping the panic button? This could stem from cultural or parental expectations, feelings of low worth or a multitude of reasonings.
Don’t just sit there and think it out. Write in down or call up a friend, a family member, turn to your cat or dog and tell them what’s up. The difference between keeping it all in your head and actually verbalizing what’s in your head is monumental.
Reflect and accept
Even if you put in 100 percent all the time, you will not always receive 100 percent in return. Understandably frustrating, but the truth. Unfortunately, that’s a part of life that we don’t all want to face and perhaps the reason the panic alarm stays on; because deep down, we don’t want to accept what’s deemed a less than optimal result.
This is the ultimate challenge, where I encourage you to look back through the entire process you went through to get to where you are now. Look at that AP class and the work you put in. Look at that honors course you took and acknowledge either the lack or abundance of dedication you respected it with. If you put in all you’ve got and have taken away what you need to have (or even more), consider that a success.
Of course, I promised not to get too woo-woo here, so let’s introduce a different concept. The Pomodoro study method, where you work in 25 minute intervals with a five minute break between each one, is an excellent productive tool to try. Every four to five intervals you take a 15 to 30 minute break. Boom, no overtaxed, overloaded brain here. Maybe using this can help sway any procrastinators from falling for the last minute cram, avoiding unnecessary stress traps.
Feelings of intense stress or anxiety can sometimes lead you to negative coping mechanisms. You, as someone who is trying to study for exams and live a healthy, happy lifestyle, do not need nor want to venture down a dark avenue. A quest for control can spiral into an obsess for control (trust me, there’s a difference).
Never be afraid to reach out to your friends for support or a listening ear, or even to a counselor. We aren’t perfect creatures, so please never let anyone make you feel like you need to be.