We did it. We passed the dreaded time of year when the only question people have for us is what we are going to change about ourselves in the new year. Will we give up soda or sweets, will we run a marathon or a 5K, will we save money or lose weight – who knows? While resolutions can be good things if we stick to them, I propose that in this new year we should focus on reducing stress – not adding to it. Mental health is something everyone deals with in one way or another, and it’s important. In 2020 we need to remember to relax and take a breather every once in a while. I’ve compiled a list of some simple stress-relieving ideas that anyone can pick up on the fly to create a more zen environment.
Write it out
While this first one on the list may seem daunting to a college student already tired of writing essays all year, it can help pinpoint the stressors in your life. Simply picking up a pen and letting out what is bothering you can really help you find ways to solve the problems in front of you. A laptop works too, but I recommend good old fashioned paper to really let the emotions fill the page. If it helps, you can get creative and turn your feelings into poetry or a short story. Whatever comes out of it can stay completely private or can be shared to connect with others that you may not have known feel the same way. Even burning the pages may be therapeutic.
While this is an obvious and potentially overused stress relief strategy, I feel it has proved its worth by being a tried and true method of relaxation. Letting the brush slide over the canvas just really melts the worries away. Remember that this isn’t art class, and what you produce doesn’t have to be perfect. Just take some time for yourself and see what you can create. Maybe pick a color that describes what you’re feeling at the time and let the brush do the talking. Play some peaceful music – or some hard rock if that’s what you need – and get lost in the wonders of art. It doesn’t even have to be painting, just pick a creative hobby and get to work. There are no deadlines, rules or pressure, just a safe space to let it all out.
Meditate and rejuvenate
Meditation can be a huge help with stress. Simply taking time to slow down and be mindful of each thought that passes through your head can help calm the body and relax the mind. There are many guides to meditation, and you can find one that works for you. If you find it’s not your cup of tea, then look for other ways to help rejuvenate your body. Taking a walk, exercising, or even taking a good nap can help bring life back into your body, which will transfer those good feelings to your mind. Practicing good skin care and hygiene will make you feel good physically, which can be very mentally beneficial. Yoga is another great way to combat stress. Sometimes it’s easiest to work on the body first so that you are free to focus on the mind without distraction.
Spend time with loved ones
While at times the stress in our lives can be caused by those we love, it’s always a good idea to let the people around you know what you’re going through because you never know who can help. Venting to a good friend about what is going on can help relieve some of the pressure of keeping in what is bothering you. While going to counseling is the best option in many situations, sometimes it feels more comfortable to talk to a friend or family member. Talking through the stress can help combat feeling overwhelmed by it and can make it more manageable. But really there’s no deep talks necessary for this stress relief. Just spend some time with the people you care about and let them lift your mood. Catch a movie or grab some ice cream. Even just sitting and being in each others’ company can make the world feel a little smaller and not so overpowering. Love is a powerful feeling, and even stress is no match for some good family time.
Reorganize and plan
When all else fails, you may need to look at how full your plate is. Writing out your schedule and planning your week may seem daunting, but being able to see how everything fits together can relieve some of the stress of not knowing how you’ll get everything done. Remember it’s okay to say no. If there is too much to do it’s okay to take a step back and focus on yourself and your mental health. If your week looks hectic and unmanageable then see if you can postpone a meeting or keep a space free for some time to yourself. We all put immense pressure on ourselves to live active and outgoing lifestyles, especially in college, and that’s great – but sometimes we can overwork ourselves, and we need to know our limits. Everyone deals with stress, and people will understand if you just need a breather.
There are many more techniques and ideas to combat stress, and the best advice I can give is to find what’s right for you. If you find that meditation or writing isn’t helping, switch to a fun hobby or take some alone time in the gym. Figure out what you can fit into your schedule and make sure finding a stress relief doesn’t backfire and cause more stress. Remember that this is for you and your health and wellbeing. What works for your best friend may not work for you, and that’s okay. Focus on yourself and your mental health and let your 2020, and every year to come, be stress-free.