We have all had that day where no matter what we do, we are constantly fretting about that bad grade. No matter what we do, the expectation to do better looms overhead.
We tend to get inside our heads and constantly continue to question ourselves. We can all agree this just stresses us out more. I know I often wonder if I’m up to the challenge or if I’m doing well enough in my classes. What will others think of me? What if all my hard work won’t pay off? With midterms coming up, it’s important to address the issue of anxiety and what you can do to maintain your sanity.
The goal is to manage your stress, not just deal with it, which is why it’s good to start with the what-not-to-do’s of stress relief. The most pertinent threat is alcohol consumption because of its severe effects on your health. Do not just look for a distraction at the bottom of a beer bottle — it has damaging effects on your study habits and avoids the issue instead of confronting it. It can also lead to binge drinking if it occurs often enough.
Another way not to handle being stressed is to stress yourself beyond the point of no return. It doesn’t help resolve the issue of what you are worried about, and it can lead to headaches and panic attacks. Often this excessive worrying can also cause you to lash out, which hurts other people. Applying copious amounts of pressure on yourself is also something that avoids the issue and most likely hurts those who are trying to help you.
Lastly, while stress eating sounds appealing, it is not healthy and will probably make you feel worse off later.
Most of these things actually avoid the problem, which is different than focusing on something else until you’re ready to re-confront the stressor. The first step in stress relief is to take a breath, no matter how corny that sounds. Taking a step back from the situation helps you to settle down and obtain a clear head. Then you can do something that lets you take a break from the pressure you are feeling.
Some of my personal favorites are listening to music, doing yoga, working out, reading, petting a puppy, meditating, taking a nap, working on something else, talking it out, coloring and making a healthy snack. Every one of these operates in a different way to help you escape from whatever is worrying you so much. Working on something else is the main idea behind de-stressing, because it helps distract you from whatever is causing your anxiety until you can focus on it again. Yoga stretches and relaxes, while working out or going for a run releases built-up tension and residual stress. Petting animals (especially puppies) has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety and even make you happier, according to animal expert Arden Moore. Taking a nap, resting or meditating clears your mind and lets your brain relax and get some sleep. Coloring, drawing or writing helps to get your feelings out in their respective ways while also relaxing you. Once you have calmed down and feel relieved, then you can make a plan of attack and execute it. Setting up your next move helps you feel in control, refocuses you on your task or emotions and solves problems.
Whether it’s midterms or just plain old stress, there’s a multitude of ways to help you de-stress and stay that way. Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as finishing writing those last 500 words of your English paper. Now when midterm week arrives, you will have an arsenal of stress-relief tactics to help you ace your tests without killing yourself over them.
Emily Fox studies neuroscience. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.