Stress seems to be an inescapable part of student life. With college finals, friends, and fatigue, the pressure quickly begins to build up. While resorting to binge eating or locking yourself away in your dorm room may seem like the quickest escape, it’s not always practical. Luckily for you, I have found some easy tricks to keep reduce stress.
1. Essential Oils
While some people are quick to judge diffusers and essential oils, they are a quick solution to reduce stress. Have you ever walked into a coffee shop, and the smell of brewing coffee takes you back to childhood mornings before school. We associate smell and memories because when the receptors in your nose are stimulated, they send messages to the part of your brain that deals with emotion. Therefore, the whiff of essential oils is the best way to calm down anxieties quickly and effectively. The best calming scents include lavender, chamomile, peppermint, or sage. There are many more scents to choose from if those don’t suit your needs. You don’t need to diffuse it, but even just a sniff will help. Make sure if you decide to purchase essential oils that they are pure, and there are no additives. Organic known brands are the way to go. There are a lot of fake or toxic products out there, so steer clear of those. So release that tension and get a whiff of the good vibes!
We’ve all heard the saying; it’s right after “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” sleep is the best way to recharge. I remember pulling all-nighters all the time in high school, and while it was easy for me to crash the next day, it was hardly easy on my body. At this point in my life, an all-nighter would be disastrous for me, and it likely is for you too. In this fast-paced society, sleep is the easiest thing to skip out on, but I highly recommend you don’t. Lack of sleep is directly linked to mental illness. Falling short on rest affects your mood; it will likely make you irritable, cranky, and stressed. Beyond that, the less you sleep, the more you find yourself at risk for depression and more likely anxiety. People diagnosed with chronic insomnia have a much greater chance of developing panic disorder. That said, the recommended 6-8 hours isn’t always doable for everyone. Fitting sleep in where you can, will likely pay off by altering your body’s reaction to stress. Rest doesn’t necessarily always have to mean sleep; it can also mean meditation, a warm bath, or a day off from the gym. Whatever you find leisure in will help reduce stress.
3. Staying Active
Have you ever spiraled into an almost panic attack but then decide to go for a walk or turn on some tv or listen to some music and suddenly forget why you were stressing in the first place. Getting out of your head and into your body is the best way to reduce stress. While this is a temporary fix, it can provide a distraction to stop the spiraling. Do not get the wrong idea; staying active does not mean killing yourself at the gym; in fact, that’s extremely counterproductive as it exhausts your body and mind. Taking a walk, stretching, yoga, or dancing to your favorite songs all contests as the kind of thing that will immediately increase your mood and remove those negative thoughts from your mind. Often doing something active that you enjoy is the best way to reduce stress, jumping rope, or bike riding are great ideas too. If you can’t think of anything, try to figure out what your favorite thing to do as a kid was. Kid’s activities provide great tools to reduce stress. If you fail to move around throughout your day, your mind will likely catch up to you, staying hyperactive to compensate because your body is not. So get out the handball and get moving!
4. Tapping Into Senses
Tapping into senses is another tip for an in the moment trick. If you’re trapped at the dinner table or on a train and feel the anxiety cloud beginning to engulf you, this is what you do. Along the same lines as staying active, this is a fix to provide a distraction for when you can’t escape your stress-inducing situation. Begin by asking yourself what you feel, touch, taste, smell, and see. Sometimes closing your eyes will help you get in touch with your other senses because we often rely too heavily on sight. Thinking about what surrounds you will ground your being and help quiet the stressors in your mind. If you find yourself trying to get in touch but are interrupted with stressful thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them pass. Imagine a river of negative thoughts, instead of dwelling on each idea, let them flow away give no power to the thought. Tapping into senses takes practice and is a lot harder than it sounds, but if you do it a few times, this will help when you feel a title wave of anxiety pooling towards you. Giving the thoughts minimal power and distracting yourself with sensory details in your surroundings will reduce stress and prevent you from drowning.
Every tip mentioned carries one underlying theme: breath. The aromatherapy, in conjunction with essential oils, requires breathwork as well as the peaceful nature of sleeping or bathing. Tapping into senses is a step before meditation, and exercise works your heart rate increasing your breath. Breathwork is the ultimate way to reduce stress because it is directly connected to heart rate. When you get nervous or stressed, your body reacts by an increased heart rate. Changing the rhythm of your heart rate is the key to reducing stress. Slowing down and clearing your head is the point of this exercise. This exercise is used in therapy to reduce anxiety; it’s less meditation-based and more focused on controlling heart rate. The idea is if you can achieve optimum heart rate variability, your body will get out of stress mode and respond far better to stress. Usually, HRV tests are performed on a fancy machine, but you don’t need to buy it to escape flight or fight mode. There are many breathing apps to choose from; the one I use is Breathe Deep. Whenever you feel stressed, locking into your breathing and focusing on it through an app or by yourself will reduce your panic and allow you to have more control over your response.