The start of a new school year always brings a mixture of excitement and anxiety for me, but this year was especially strange since there hasn’t been an actual in-person first day of classes in what feels like forever.
It can be easy to get swept away by classes and homework, not to mention if you have a job or other commitments. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that life requires balance, or you won’t be able to be at your best if you spread yourself too thin.
There are a few ways I’ve learned to manage stress, because let’s face it, if you’re a college student, you’re guaranteed to be stressed a good percentage of the time. What works for me might not work for everyone, but if you live your life in a constant state of business like I do, these relaxation strategies might be for you.
Since my schedule is usually jam-packed, it helps me to set aside time for the things I like to do, even if it’s just once a week or 20 minutes a day that I dedicate to some form of self-care.
For example, Sunday evenings before I start the week, I write in a journal to help clear my head and feel like I’m going into the next week without a heavy weight on my shoulders of whatever worries I was carrying. Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts out on paper and leave them behind, reflect on the previous week and note the positive moments too.
I am also a huge fan of using exercise to manage stress. Whether you like going to the gym with a friend or working out alone, exercise is a great way to give yourself a break from work, and I always feel better after I work out than I did before. It also helps to have a physical outlet for getting rid of stress, whether that takes the form of running, interval training, swimming, weightlifting or anything in between.
Another great way to relax is by having a creative outlet. I love to draw and paint, but I often don’t have the time to work on an art project during the school year, but I do my best to make sure I always have some form of a creative outlet that I do purely for my own enjoyment without the pressure of having to be amazing at it.
Currently, my creative outlets are improv and playing ukulele, and it makes a world of difference for me when I can do something just for the fun of it. Although the world seems to emphasize the importance of productivity over self-care or fun, everyone needs to have something they enjoy that is separate from the expectation of always being productive because no one can realistically be productive 100% of the time.
Most of the time I feel like I live my life running from one thing to the next. That has taught me how important it is to be intentional with the time I spend with the people I care about, so another part of how I manage the stress and anxiety of school (and honestly of life in general) is by making an effort to reach out to friends for some quality time.
Whether that looks like grabbing lunch with a friend once a week, setting aside time on the weekend for some board games with a group of friends or having one night a week where I cook dinner with my housemates, having time where I am present and can be in the moment with the people I care about helps me take things one day at a time and appreciate them even more.
Every so often I hit a wall and get overwhelmed with anxiety because of everything going on in my life. I know myself well enough to know that when that happens, I need to give myself a break and decompress by taking time for myself to be alone and recharge.
Many of us here at GU tend to stretch ourselves thin and get involved in tons of different activities, but at the same time, it’s incredibly important to know your limits and when to take a break.
What works for me might not be your cup of tea, but everyone needs a break sometimes, and knowing what you need and knowing your limits is one of the most important ways to take care of yourself.
Especially as we transition back to in-person classes and a semester that more closely resembles what college is supposed to be like, finding ways to put yourself first and finding things you enjoy that help you relax is one of the most beneficial things you can do.