The never-ending flow of finals, group projects, AP tests, and stress has hit us once again. Although stress can be helpful, it too often overwhelms us. In these stressful times, utilizing one or more of these ways can help you manage your stress.
Physical stress on your body actually reduces mental stress! Physical activity produces endorphins, which help elevate your mood by causing adrenaline and feelings of accomplishment. Exercise will help relax a body full of stress.
2. GET THOSE ZZZ’S!
Sleep is incredibly important to your mental health. Sacrificing it can increase your stress, causing you to stay up later, which adds even more stress, which can make it hard to fall asleep, which––in other words, it’s an unending cycle that continues to hurt you. “Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress,” states Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better.”
3. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COFFEE…
Yes, I know what you’re going to say: “I need coffee to live” or “Someone will die if I don’t get my coffee.” That is because coffee IS, in fact, a drug. Coffee is caffeine, a stimulant most commonly used for mental alertness, but when taken correctly, can produce positive effects. According to Elizabeth Scott, who has a Master of Science degree, coffee should be taken in “controlled doses.” It’s important to limit your intake of coffee. Coffee is addictive, but you must resist having more than two cups a day. Drinking coffee after two in the afternoon is often harmful because that eight-hour rush of energy could impact your sleeping schedule. Scott says that “caffeine is best ingested before exercise [so] that way your performance is enhanced.” You can burn the caffeine off.
4. START CHEWING
Surprisingly, chewing gum actually can help you reduce stress. Sasaki-Otomaru, a researcher for the School of Medicine Nursing Course at the Yokohama City University, conducted a study to find the psychological effects of chewing gum. Participants were asked to chew gum twice a day for two weeks, daily completing a questionnaire with questions relating to anxiety and stress. After two weeks, the young adult’s stress levels had decreased significantly. Chewing gum helps stimulate the senses using taste, smell, and touch, causing the mind to grow alert with an elevated mood.
5. PUT ON SOME TUNES
Music has been shown to improve and bring about an overall positive mood. In a study by Nature Neuroscience, music actually releases dopamine in the brain, “arous[ing] feelings of euphoria and craving.” Dopamine is the chemical released in your brain as a reward system, like when you eat your favorite food (like tacos, YUM!). Even though music doesn’t satisfy our needs physically, it does mentally.
6. WRITE IT ALLLLL OUT
That’s right, get it all out. Grab a pencil, marker, $200 fountain pen, computer, typewriter–-you name it. Scribble out whatever it is that’s stressing you. (Even if it’s a lot. Write your troubles down.) According to the University of Rochester’s Medical Center, journaling your emotions can “help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health.” When you write out your stressors, you discover the cause of it.
Laughter can’t cure everything, but it can definitely help you instantly relieve some stress. Laughing, whether it’s deep belly guffaws to giggles, releases endorphins in the brain, prompting happy feelings. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter doesn’t just help mentally, but physically stimulates the body.
It’s not as scary as it sounds. According to WebMD, Aromatherapy is when someone uses essential oils, extracted from various types of plants, and “activates areas in your nose called smell receptors, which send messages through your nervous system to your brain.” Certain parts of your brain, like the limbic system and the hypothalamus, are activated by the scent, improving your emotions by releasing serotonin.
9. EAT SOME CHOCOLATE
Chocolate is definitely a tasty treat that’s hard to resist. In addition to its flavor, it can help relieve stressful symptoms. Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, says that “dark chocolate, in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, adding to a feeling of calm.” A study done at Loma Linda University was an in depth analysis of the benefits of dark chocolate. Lee S. Berk, DrPHD, confirms that the “flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health.” So remember, a chocolate a day keeps the stress away!
10. I KNOW IT SEEMS OBVIOUS, BUT TAKE DEEP BREATHS.
It’s going to be okay. We often breathe shallowly and quickly, so pausing and allowing time to fully breathe feels unnatural. Taking deep breaths helps lower your heart rate and blood pressure, invoking a sense of calm. According to Harvard’s Medical School, we can invoke a relaxation response to stress that can be found in, for example, “meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.” If you’re feeling stressed out, take a second to focus your breathing to help calm your body and mind down.