Four Ways to Take Care of Yourself When You’re Stressed
By: Larissa Banitt
May is upon us, which means students all over the country are starting to feel the pressure of finals. It is easy to get swept along in the current of stress that builds up on college campuses this time of year, so to combat that I have compiled a list of things to do to take care of yourself this finals season, which you can also apply to any stressful period in your life.
1. Stick to a regular schedule for eating and sleeping.
This may seem like a simple, obvious thing, but I wouldn’t include it unless I thought it was relevant. So many people I know pull all-nighters or skip meals in order to make time to finish a presentation or study for a test. The problem with this is that by the time they have finished they are too exhausted or distracted from hunger to do well on the presentation or test itself. Sure, they may have needed that extra time to prepare, but they also needed to make sure their basic needs were met and since they did not they did not function at the level they were used to. An easy way you can keep this from happening is to establish a firm, regular schedule for sleep and meals and plan everything else around that. You’ll feel better because of it and you will perform better too.
2. Take time to do things just for you.
When things get busy in my academic life, the first thing I cut out is free time. This makes sense to some extent, since if I have extra work and need to find a few extra hours to do it I’d rather take it from leisure time than from time set aside for other commitments, especially if I am adhering to my first piece of advice about sleeping and eating. This habit can compound on itself, though, until I have no free stretches left at all and am running around frantically all day trying to get my work done. Living like this is not sustainable and will burn you out. In busy periods you may have to cut out a bit of your leisure time, but making sure to set aside at least an hour every day to do things not at all connected to work will give you time to experience some semblance of normalcy, even if the rest of your life is completely overwhelming.
3. Take time to relax.
This is similar to my previous point, and for some people might be identical. However, what I mean by relaxing specifically rather than just incorporating leisure time into your schedule is that if your favorite leisure activities include watching high stakes sports games or graphic television shows they may certainly be a great form of escapism, but might still keep you keyed up or anxious. To be able to completely unwind and recharge, you might need to do things you would not when your life is otherwise fairly stress-free. Taking a walk, sketching, listening to soothing music, or journaling are just a few examples of activities to do that will ground and re-center you so that when you do return to work, you can tackle it refreshed.
4. Keep it in perspective.
It is easy to look at any given final grade or paper and feel like your entire fate is held in the balance of your results, but, most of the time, this just isn’t true. I had a professor once who only had three assessments for the entire term, which, understandably, freaked many of us out. He knew this, so he asked us to think bigger than just this class. Sure, a final test worth fifty percent of one’s overall grade seems enormous, but he asked us to consider how it was only half of one final grade out of the nine or so final grades we would receive that year, or even the thirty-six odd final grades we would get in the course of our undergraduate education. Suddenly, his grading system no longer seemed so apocalyptic.
Another way to gain perspective is to remind yourself that you are not a grade. School can feel all-consuming while you are caught up in it, but in the end it is only one facet of your life. You may be a student, but you are also a friend, a family member, a part of a community. You are an amalgamation of your experiences, hobbies, relationships, and so many more components that are more impactful in your life and will last longer than a letter on a piece of paper ever will.
Edited by: Anna Sweet