Relaxation and Stress Management

It’s that time of year, folks. Midterms, the holidays, and the constant threat of nuclear war can really build up stress levels. Midterms hardly need explaining: Millennials are supposed to be the most stressed out generation, at least according to an American Psychological Association study in 2013. The holidays can be complicated for a lot of college students beyond annoying aunts and uncles: for some people, returning home means preparing for physical or emotional abuse, taking on a gender that they don’t identify with anymore and a plethora of other complications. The constant threat of nuclear war . . . yeah. Beyond calling our senators and donations, I still have knots in the back of my neck.

Most of these things aren’t gonna be resolved quickly or easily, so it’s important to be extra diligent in doing what you can to take care of yourself. When people have confided in me struggles that they’re having that don’t have an easy answer, something I’ve taken on saying more and more is ‘Be nice to yourself!’ Soaked in a capitalist culture that encourages you to value yourself based on your output, it’s no wonder we forget to take care of ourselves!

So in the spirit of the holidays, here are some of my favorite methods of self care! This is my no means an exhaustive list, so please feel free to suggest any methods I don’t mention in the comments!

1. Take a walk. More often than not, a change of environment and some alone time is incredibly refreshing, especially when most of your time is already planned out for something else. Go somewhere you’ve never gone before, or take a route you don’t normally take. Make sure to go outside when it’s sunny, because increased exposure to light raises your serotonin levels!

2. SLEEP. Sleep is more and more difficult to come by in our busy lives, but really allowing yourself to sleep in and get the rest your body needs can work wonders. When we aren’t getting enough sleep, the body begins to shut down: it affects your memory, learning, libido, and essential vital systems.

3. Meditation. Even if you only have a few minutes, taking time to center yourself and become present can help you approach situations with a clearer head. Just find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your outgoing breath. Peaceful meditation is that simple. If you feel uncomfortable guiding yourself, there are lots of free guided meditations you can access online.

4. Mindfulness. Exercises If meditation makes your head spin (and it does for a lot of people), there are a couple of mindfulness exercises or mantras you can say to yourself throughout the day. A great one that I’ve been using is just feeding in the thought: I have enough time. So often people wake up with the thought: I’m not gonna get everything done today. These thought patterns affect how we got throughout our days, and negativity is contagious. Some other examples could be: “I am enough.” “One day at a time.” “Live and let live.” I’ve been reading from Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness every morning, and there was one passage that really stuck with me: “I am abundance. I am love. All that I need always comes.” Even if you don’t intend to participate in a spiritual practice, these thought patterns can change our approach to how we spend our lives.

5. Aromatherapy! Lots of people don’t think about their sense of smell, but it can powerfully affect us. If this is something you have access to, putting an essential oil diffuser in your room can help reduce stress and ease depression. The combination of certain essential oils, including peppermint, bergamot, lemon and others, have been use in aromatherapy for centuries. Using a diffuser while you’re meditating can also be extremely helpful to centering your focus.

Although not all of these methods have helped every time I’ve felt overwhelmed (sometimes more holistic therapy is needed), it’s reassuring knowing that I have a toolbox I can return to. We’re all learning how to better handle stressful situations, and the more we practice these things, the better prepared we will be when difficult situations occur.

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