Being a student can be challenging. Most people are also balancing their studies with work, family and social obligations. It’s normal to feel some stress, but there are tools you can use to minimize the impact it has on your health and productivity. By developing these habits, you will be able to find the energy and focus you need to help you survive life as a student.
Get your exercise
Adding exercise into your already busy routine might seem impossible, but there are ways that you can get your heart rate up without taking too much extra time out of your day. Small swaps like taking a walk on your lunch break instead of sitting at your desk, or biking to work instead of taking the bus, are great ways to get moving. Don’t feel like you need to do an intense weightlifting session for an hour every day. Adding as little as 20-30 minutes of activity has proven to reduce stress. Exercise helps reduce stress hormones in the body such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates production of endorphins, which can elevate your mood. Try incorporating exercise that you enjoy, rather than forcing yourself to do something you hate. You are far more likely to stick to something that you get enjoyment from. You can even join a club or a team to gain the social benefits of being active as well.
Make a plan and stay organized
Have you ever noticed that your environment can have an impact on your mood and ability to focus? Trying to focus in a messy physical space can cause you to feel stressed and drive you to distraction. A clear work space makes for a clear mind, so if you are about to study, try and find a spot that is tidy and free from distractions. In addition to the physical organization of objects, it is also important to plan for upcoming projects and events. This is a huge stress reliever, as long as you remember to take it one day at a time. Take a big task, like writing a paper, and break it down into smaller and more manageable tasks each with their own due dates. Doing this will help you stay on track and avoid the anxiety that comes with something like knowing your paper is due in 2 days and you haven’t started yet. If you’re really into the planning thing, try this: plan your downtime. You don’t need to schedule every minute of every day, but telling yourself that Friday night is going to be free time for you to watch a movie or go out with a friend will give you something to look forward to. Rest and recovery is vital to helping you minimize stress and stay on track.
Good health is an important part of being reducing stress. When you’re a busy student, it can be easy to fall into the habit of grabbing food on the go or skipping meals altogether. But fueling your body with good foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be one of your biggest priorities. Eating well will help you reduce inflammation, prevent weight gain, and strengthen the immune system. Nobody is their most productive when they are sick! Daily choices like avoiding that afternoon pizza or vending machine snack and replacing it with an apple, nuts or carrot sticks can mean the difference between feeling foggy or feeling clear-headed. The key to finding the time to eat healthy and eat regularly is to make it a habit. Buy vegetables and wash and cut them up ready to grab and eat. Prep easy bring-with-you meals like sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Buy canned and frozen vegetables, fruits and legumes that have a longer shelf life for those nights when you need to whip up a quick and easy dinner. This may seem overwhelming at first, but once you are in the habit, you will see how much easier it makes life.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep is common for students, many of whom are also balancing other responsibilities such as a part-time job. However, making an effort to establish consistent sleep patterns should be one of your top priorities, as the amount and quality of your sleep has a profound effect on your body and mind. When you’re tired, you become less productive, and it becomes more difficult to listen and retain knowledge. Exhaustion causes your stress levels to rise and increases your chances of becoming sick, depressed and even overweight. Try establishing a set schedule that allows you to get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night. The busy life of a student can often cause some trouble even getting to sleep, so try out some different techniques that might help you to fall asleep and do what works best for you. Taking a bath, meditating, reading a book, and putting your phone and/or laptop aside an hour before bed can help you to fall asleep faster. If all else fails, nap when necessary! However, still strive to make a regular sleeping schedule a priority.
Be mindful and meditate
It’s likely that you don’t have the time to treat yourself to an hour of yoga every day, and that’s okay. Finding small moments throughout the day to make a mind-body connection can also have a positive impact on your well being. Feeling anxious? Take a moment to focus on breathing. Here is how to use the 4-7-8 breathing technique: inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. It can be as little as 4 breaths and can be done at your desk, during class, or in bed before falling asleep. If you have 5-10 minutes of spare time, you can also download an app to take you through a guided meditation. One last tip – practice gratefulness. Each morning, as you drive, cycle, or walk to school, try to think of 3 things you are grateful for. It can be as simple as expressing your gratitude for a sunny day. Starting your day with a positive mindset is always a good idea!
Everyone is different and deals with stress in their own way, so try out some of these techniques and find what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but hopefully these are some tools you can introduce into your life to make things a little easier.