Given it was just the Fourth of July (if you are in America), stress and anxiety don’t seem to be current worries. However, when you get back into your work or school routine and multi-tasking on a regular basis, you may need to check up on the ways to re-set yourself.
I use the term re-set because many of us seem to run at 100 mph, at maximum efficiency to maintain our productivity.
I have always been known by my peers to be a sort of blur on campus, given my university schedule starting at 5 or 6 am every morning. Being a college-athlete had amazing pros, but the cons were definitely present as well. My typical college day would be as follows:
- 5 or 6 am weights
- 2 hour practice directly afterward (until 9 or 10 am)
- Full day of classes until late afternoon (maybe 3 or 4 pm or so)
After my classes I had a window of time to do my homework, any errands, laundry, cooking, and prepping for the next day.
I am happy to report this is no longer my everyday routine due to the fact that I’m graduated. However, if you find yourself stressed and overwhelmed, I understand that feeling for it somewhat encompassed me for four years straight.
Checklist for reducing stress and anxiety:
- Organize yourself. Time management is essential to stay stable in a busy routine. Dry erase boards are great to write weekly due dates and events, I swear by these! Planners are also great and portable. You can keep one in your school or work bag and even used color coding for various events. Color coding makes everything more obvious when you’re skimming through your obligations.
- Think ahead, always. If you’re a very busy person, preparing for the next day(s) will only benefit you to avoid forgetting details or scrambling at the last minute. Whether this is putting fresh outfits in the car or meal prepping, taking the time to do these tasks ahead of time will make you feel less rushed.
- Don’t shut out friends and family when stressed. Chances are many of your school friends are feeling just as stressed, just maybe not for identical same reasons. It is helpful to be able to release your stresses to a good friend or family member and talk through what is making you feel overwhelmed. The process of releasing bad energy is not necessarily the content, it is actually just the releasing part. Just talking through things helps you feel more centered, which is why we sometimes come to realizations ourselves in a conversation, when the other person technically didn’t help us get there.
- Incorporate things that make you happy throughout a long day. If you have break times, bring headphones to listen to music or communicate with someone to take your mind somewhere else for a few minutes. I often drew something on my hand in the same spot whenever I was feeling super down and out of energy, and I would look down at it and trace it with my fingertips to relax me. Whatever these small things are, they can work wonders to keep you focused in a healthy way.
- Set aside time to do some activity that relaxes you. This is so important. Just like when you’re on a hike and you know the view or lookout at the end will be insane, you need something to look forward to in a day of obligation. Taking a bath with candles and a book, sketching, writing, whatever creative outlet or activity that pulls you away from obligation. Make this time completely for you, and maybe even turn your phone off if it is blowing up. Some other ideas: yoga, pilates, or meditation. These are slow-moving activities that bring you a lot of self-awareness and care for your body. Below is my provided gear for a yoga and core class at my gym, and a new book on scientific writing that I’m super intrigued by :).
Just like the list above, if you find yourself to be very into making lists, make sure they are prioritized in need of importance. For instance, if your laundry can wait another day it might be better to do your homework or work and get to bed at a more reasonable hour. Often times, errands can be completed on weekends (which sounds awful), but if you’re busy during the week you will be pleasantly surprised how many hours there are in a day when the weekend rolls around.
A very scheduled routine can be your best friend. Routines make you develop a rhythm that you can stick to. I’m not saying you can’t have two cups of coffee in the morning instead of one because I would be a hypocrite, but the overall message is to establish a beneficial relationship with the clock.
Forms of expression: Above I mentioned sketching and reading, but art in general really can increase a relaxing state of mind. I love to look at art pieces because they bring me inspiration, and distract me from reality. Below is my favorite piece of art to date; a graffiti piece on the Bondi Beach boardwalk:
“I was once of the world, yet I am not of this world.”
I stress organization skills in this piece because organization gives us a sense of control. When we feel in control we find motivation a much easier thing to obtain.
Letting stress literally take over your body isn’t healthy. Mismanaged stress causes an imbalance of emotion and a likely result of an energy deficit. This can be the outcome if you do not embrace what is causing you stress. There is another alternative.
To briefly go all scientific on you, stress isn’t all bad. A stress response is created in the brain to tell us that that we need more energy than our current capacity. This evokes a somewhat panicked reaction, however, it can also act as a stimulus for positive change.
The possible benefits of stress:
- Improvement of memory: Have you ever noticed a sudden clarity of a decision while under stress, or a major boost of recall to answers during an important exam? Stress responses can actually sharpen your memory and help you focus. This is short-term. Extended, long term stress can make your memory foggy. These are totally different.
- Turning stress into motivation: Think of this as transforming stress into positive energy. This also includes awareness. You know the stress is there, so change it to be positive. Stress as motivation can help you make hard and fast decisions, and be more productive under pressure. This in turn boosts your confidence and mental toughness, two very sought after qualities for any kind of profession. Again, this is a healthy dose of stress.
- Stress as excitement: We experience stress in exciting situations as well, it is not just a survival tool. When we finally talk to a person we like (for the romantics), or when we conquer a major fear, we feel some sort of stress. This stress can feel like the pre-stage of adrenaline that makes our lives more interesting. Achieving this stress can bring us fulfillment and happiness.
Long-term stress: Stitch is adorable but this is not a good situation.
From above, there are positive things to draw from short burst of stress. Long-term stress is not healthy exposure, so practicing how to harness and transform it into a positive outcome is key. Take the time to find what works for you, and incorporate these methods into your everyday routine. I hope this provided insight to the background of stress and how to find healthy outlets. Thanks for reading! xx