Hello, welcome to the exam period. The black hole for debilitating stress, and the rapid decline of self-confidence. During this time, we introduce you to the art of procrastination, the steps to forgetting the meaning of relaxation, and the loss of all mental function. But all’s well that ends well. Right?
In all honesty though, exam time is a very stressful and pressure-filled time for all uni students (and if you say it’s not, you’re lying). With all of this in mind, I’ve taken it upon myself to provide you with some of the best options for reducing stress and getting you to the other side of the exam period.
The no. 1 bane of my actual existence. Exercise is one of those things that if you stop, you cannot restart to save your life. But it’s worth it. Especially in struggling students, exercise is a starting point to reduce stress levels. When your body is under physical “stress”, it takes the stress off of mental functions. And, of course, as we have heard throughout our entire lives, exercise releases (…wait for it…) endorphins. Ba, dum, crash. The chemicals that are proven to lift your mood and ease stress.
If you’re not up for running, regularly going to the gym, lifting weights, etc. why not try some yoga? Increased flexibility and the added bonus of breathing techniques to reduce stress in the future. Why not walk? Starting with walking, even around the block, is an excellent and simple way to get you out and moving.
A.k.a. light a candle. It’s that easy. Using plant and essential oils in the form of candles has been proven to improve physical and emotional wellbeing.
To get you started, here are some popular aromatic scents for your personal, stress-reducing, candle-lit sesh.
- Peppermint: Has mood-lifting capabilities, and works as a form of stimulant to increase concentration
- Rosemary: Decreases stress, and can work as a natural pain reliever
- Sandalwood: Can ease anxiety or anxious feelings and aggression, and increase compassion
- Sweet Orange: Reduces worry and stimulates cheerfulness and calm
- Tea Tree: Boosts the immune system, can fight infections and reduces feelings of stress
- Rose: Reduces inflammation and tension, and promotes overall bodily relaxation
- Lavender: Can ease stress and anxiety, and encourages calm physical and mental wellbeing
Make time for your friends and family. Hello… your no. 1 social support network, an escape from the uni hectic-ness, and proven increase in self-worth? Why wouldn’t you make time for these people? On a psychological level, your friends and family can literally change your life. Make. Time. For. Them.
Make time for your hobbies. You like to dance? Do it. You like to draw? Do it. Reading, sport, gardening, singing? Do it. Your assignments aren’t going to run away from you. Put them down for one hour to make time for the things you actually enjoy doing.
Make time for yourself. Take a bath, watch some of that show you’ve been meaning to get to, do your nails, make a cup of your favourite steaming hot beverage. The list is endless. But… do something that makes you laugh, which not only reduces stress levels, but releases tension in your muscles too.
Teach Yourself to Say No!
This can be a tough one, I know from firsthand experience. Someone asks you to help them, or convinces you to drive them somewhere, or offers to buy you a drink, or countless other reasons. But you need to teach and train yourself to say no to these situations if you aren’t interested, you have control over them. As uni students, we deal with so much stress and commitments that can be hard to handle but be selective with your unnecessary responsibilities. Eliminate the pressure.
This is your go-to move at uni, it’s predictable, it’s dangerous but mostly, it just causes unnecessary stress. This work-avoiding method may begin with a pro, but it definitely ends with crastination. Here are some strategies to avoid this bottomless-pit death-trap.
- Make a to-do list, and actually use it until it’s completed
- Set a reminder on your phone, with a calming alarm tone
- Colour-code (because this is just satisfying, let’s be honest)
- Give yourself deadlines, you are more likely to stick to it
- List your priorities and work from the top-down
- Keep all of your assessments in a calendar, and keep yourself organised
Listen to Music
Stick some headphones in, or blast your speakers, but put on some music while you study. Soothing music causes the same soothing reaction on your body, lowering your heart-rate and releasing tension and stress. Listening to music that you just enjoy can have a similar (but slightly less effective) effect. Nature sounds also work in a calming way, definitely use this at night to help you sleep stress-free.
We all do it, so why not make turn it into a technique for stress release? Breathing and deep breathing techniques are a small way to relax the frantic and stressed mind of a uni student and can also improve your mental wellbeing. Here are two easy techniques to get you started;
- 4, 7, 8: Breathe in mindfully through your nose for 4 seconds, hold this breathe for 7 seconds, then breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds, and repeat this at least 4 times. As well as being an easy stress relief, this method also reduces migraine symptoms, anxiety and aggressive tendencies
- Belly Breathing: Sit or lie down for this one. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. During this technique, your chest should not move. Take in a deep breath through your nose and let your belly inflate against your hand. Breathe out and let your hand return with your belly, until all of the air has been pushed out. Do this as many times as necessary, it can be as many as 10 times.
Give Up on Guilt
Don’t waste your time and energy on feeling guilty, especially if that guilt can easily be taken away. I, myself, feel guilty if I’m sitting at home not doing assessment work, even if there is no assessment work to worry about. So, watch that next Netflix show you’ve been binging, you’ve earnt it. You didn’t go to the gym today? Regather yourself and plan your next gym day (and stick to it). You want that piece of chocolate? Just eat it. Guilt is one of those emotions that results in stress, just give up on it and allow yourself to have that crucial work-life balance.
Remember that Good is Truly Good Enough
Doing well at uni is something we all strive for, it’s actually the one thing that most of us can agree on. But stop putting that pressure on yourself to be perfect. To get that essay perfect, to get the perfect photo for that assignment heading, to do the perfect reflection piece. Uni is our stepping stone for the future, but are you really going to remember the assignment you’re working on right now in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? No. Probably not. So, remember that your good work now is truly good enough.
We all hear it; we all hate it. “Put your phone down, stop watching TV, do your study”. But putting down the technology, the distractions, for even just an hour a day, allows you to destress, gets your brain to recharge and refresh, and is a natural, easy, stress reliever. Have a cup of tea, read that book you’ve been putting aside, draw a picture, go for a walk, go to the beach, or meet up with a friend. Push yourself to put down your devices and depend on yourself for some ‘me-time’. Trust me, your assignments aren’t going anywhere.