Being a student can be very stressful. At this point in the semester, midterms are behind us and finals are ahead. And of course before those finals we have quizzes, tests and papers due. Too much stress can be bad for your health, especially if you are not handling your stress in healthy ways. The most common unhealthy way students cope is avoidance. Ever have so much to do that you spent the whole day watching Netflix? Ever become so stressed you ate twice what you normally would for dinner or polished off a whole box of cookies? While not as unhealthy as excessive drinking or drug use, these coping strategies end up causing problems relatively quickly.
The good news is there are easy, medically proven ways to reduce your stress and anxiety. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, a quick way to reduce your stress level and focus your mind is to take a few slow deep breaths. Slow deep breaths actually tone down your body’s natural fight or flight response. One of the best breathing techniques for fast results is called the 4:8 method. Simply draw a breath in through your nose for four seconds, then slowly let it out through your mouth for eight seconds. Do this four times in sequence and feel your mind relax. When you need to get calm in a hurry give this technique a try.
A longer lasting approach to addressing stress and anxiety is to prepare before it happens. When you know your day is going to be especially stressful, take 10 to 15 minutes in the morning to practice mindful breathing. Although this technique does take a little more time, the benefits last the entire day.
The process is simple. Sit somewhere comfortable and quiet. Allow your muscles to relax, and focus your mind on your breathing. Many people find counting their breaths is the easiest way to do this. As you count your breaths, your mind will bring up many thoughts and plans. The key to mindful breathing is allowing these thoughts to pass without addressing them. Being fully in the present allows your mind to relax and focus and be re-energized. There is a great free app for beginners in mindful breathing called Calm. It guides you through the process with easy five-minute sessions.
Making a calm and healthy environment around yourself can greatly reduce your stress level. How does your environment smell? Aroma has a strong influence on mood and brain function. Improve the aroma of your environment by using a scented plugin in your room, drinking an aromatic tea like jasmine or vanilla and using lotion with calming aromas like rose and sandalwood. A simple thing like cleaning and organizing your room can give a sense of calm and control. Calming music is another great way to create a peaceful environment. Is every song on your iPod fast and intense? Try some cello or classical piano if you notice you are feeling anxious.
Whether you have a little anxiety about a test or are freaking out about life, these techniques can help you ride out your feelings of stress in a safe and healthy way. They can help you avoid unhealthy coping and bring a little peace into your life.