I get asked about stress more than anything else – and no wonder: stress is the single biggest wellness issue that college students report interfering with their academic success.
So. Ignoring, for the the moment, the “WHY” of various stress relievers, here’s a list of things that actually help when you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed:
Physical activity. Any kind. Walk, run, lift, climb, jump up and down, whatever. Move your body. It helps. Seriously. I know you’ve heard it before, but that’s because it’s the single most efficient way to deal with stress. Even if you just get out of your chair right now and stretch all your muscles. Really! Get up now and do it!
Affection. (i.e., the loving presence of someone you care about, who cares about you) Spending time with the people you care about the most makes you feel better. Of course not ALL the people you care about are equally comforting to be around when you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or stressed, so be sure to select the people who really feel good. It helps.
Sleep. Shakespeare had an unwholesome obsession with sleep. He said it “knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” Right on. Get more of it. It’s good for you. (Oftentimes when people are stressed, they can’t get to sleep, which makes this advice pretty unhelpful. I’ll write a different post about that.
Being in nature. Getting outside and away from the things of man, as it were, shifts your brain out of human-busy-doing mode and helps you to operate in a mode more in tune with nature – a little slower, a little more aware of what’s going on right now rather than what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Go outside and pay attention to right now.
Learning something new. TED talks, RadioLab podcasts, and nature documentaries on PBS are just a few examples of ways you can get a feeling of self-transcendence, which takes you out of your stressed-out state and into a sense of wonder, curiosity, and hope. You can’t feel stressed and curious at the same time.
Doing something nice for someone else. There are few things more rejuvenating than being kind and thoughtful. Make a thank you card for someone who did something to help you out, find a friend who’s having a crappy day and ask them if they’d like to chill out with a movie, or even just stand up and get dessert for someone else. You’ll feel better if you do.