It’s currently what I call the most stressful time of the year. Forget the Christmas shopping stampede, back-to-school season is truly the season of the most headaches (and backaches!) every year. If you are a high school student like me, you know the sudden, unwelcome flood of work, expectations, unfamiliar teachers and obligations filling up your schedule that arrives the moment the first bell rings. And stays like an unwanted guest, hours past the time you get home and drop your 50-lb backpack on the floor. It hangs over your shoulder while you power through that stack of homework, and breathes down your neck as you try to relax and get to sleep at a reasonable hour (yeah, right!)
In this post, I will share some de-stress methods that I use throughout the day and find effective at lowering my anxiety. I’m not saying I’m the queen of zen by any stretch of the imagination. But I do have school-proof methods that work for me to reduce my anxiety, morning, noon and night. In this post, I have divided my strategies into a Dawn-To-Dusk De-Stress Plan. I hope you give a few of my ideas a try, and maybe customize them to be optimal for you. Everyone has unique methods to cope with stress. If you have a great relaxation technique that isn’t here, feel free to mention it in the comments!
The Fall 2013 True Healthy Me Dawn-To-Dusk De-stress Plan
1. Have a schedule during the week. Set your alarm so you wake up early enough to get ready and sit down to a healthy, satisfying breakfast before heading out the door. This way, there’s no morning drama or fear of lateness (is anyone else deathly afraid of walking in late to a silent classroom? Or is that just my personal weirdness?). The more time I leave myself to dress, eat, etcetera, the less likely I am to rush out the door and forget something, saving me from more stress later on. (“Everyone take out the 500-page essay that none of you left on your desks at home because you can’t turn it in late.” Oops.)
2. Speaking of breakfast: very important. Fuels your brain and helps you wake up. I don’t drink coffee, but I often find myself more awake than other students early in the day because I take the time to plan and eat a good breakfast.
During the School Day:
3. Don’t think too far into the future. I learned from my mom to just think about what I’m doing at the moment: right now I’m walking to science class. Not: when I get to science class I need to do a group activity and after that I have to go to music and we have a playing test and I might get a bad grade and my GPA will drop and I’ll never get into college. Sometimes I find myself thinking like this, but then I remember that it’s more effective to take things one step at a time. Just like if I’m playing music, I can’t try to play all the notes at once (that would get me an F for sure!) It’s important to think ahead a little, but don’t worry ahead.
4. Find things to smile/laugh about. Some studies show that laughter not only helps one relax and feel good, it can be beneficial for blood flow and it just makes people happy overall. So hang out with people who make you laugh!
5. Be organized. Write down all your homework so you don’t have to frantically scour your friends and the rarely-updated teacher websites when you get home. And keep all your classwork in a binder or folder, in some sort of order that makes things easy to find. In elementary school, my desk was the messiest area in the classroom. One day the teacher made me clean it up while the other kids did a fun activity. But once the horrid mess was removed, everything I needed was easier to find! That lesson stuck with me forever, and now I keep all my papers reasonably organized. As for my desk at home…that’s another story. But I do find that the neater I can get it, the higher my quality of life is while doing homework.
6. Take a shower. If I’ve just arrived home from a hard day at school, I like to take a little break before starting my homework to just feel the warm water rushing over me. It feels like I’m washing off the dusty drudgery of the day. When I come out, I feel rejuvenated and ready to work!
7. Don’t procrastinate. Do your homework as soon as possible, after maybe a quick shower and/or snack. Break projects up into little pieces as soon as they are assigned, and plan when you will do each step.
8. Have something to look forward to. I know how trying it is to sit down to a pile of homework after a whole day of tedious classwork. What I often do is take a fun little quiz on Blogthings (most take less than 5 minutes) and don’t let myself see the result until I’ve done a set amount of homework. I will also wait to look at emails from friends until I’ve done some homework. Keeping that little reward just out of reach motivates me to do my homework faster.
9. Get to bed at a reasonable time. I try to make sure I get at least 8 hours. Even if I’m still working on something, unless it’s the most important thing in the world and due tomorrow, I will quit at 10:00 or 10:30 to make sure I get enough sleep. This way, I’ll be refreshed enough to make more progress on my work the next day. I avoid having to work all night because I start working on projects the day I receive them.
10. When I’m lying in bed, just before I fall asleep, I think of eleven positive things that happened to me during the day. I’ve been doing this since seventh grade, when my English teacher told us research suggested this procedure could turn a pessimist into an optimist. It hasn’t quite done that for me, but what it has done is helped me reflect on my day. I always find myself remembering little funny or exciting things that happened that I’d forgotten about. The positive things can include achievements, new opportunities, laugh out loud moments, a compliment someone gave you…anything you find good. And you don’t have to limit yourself to eleven.
11. Plan your schedule for the year in a realistic way. I know people who are taking 4 or 5 AP classes, plus are involved in high-level orchestra, athletics, and/or honors societies. Unless you want to get into the University of Over-Achievers, where your life will be even more stressful what with 100-page dissertations due every day, please be realistic with yourself. In my view, it’s more important to focus on a few areas of study that are genuinely important to you. Then push yourself to do more in these areas, and take harder classes that directly relate to your interests and passions. This will help you truly excel in these areas, which is also a plus on that college resumé you’re so worried about. 🙂 For instance, I am only taking one AP class, which is English, something I am interested in and fairly good at.
12. Exercise. Just like laughing, exercise can release good chemicals in your body. Sometimes when I’m really angry or stressed, I go for a short run to burn off my bad feelings. I also enjoy yoga, though I haven’t taken a formal class in some time. Just before getting into bed I sometimes do a few poses, or at least child’s pose (my favorite!) I also occasionally do a bit in the morning. I feel like it helps release tension building in my body.
13. Pursue hobbies. I find baking to be a great stress-reliever. Painting, drawing, writing, and reading help get my mind off anxiety-provoking topics. Blogging is not only a hobby but also a way to express my feelings. Letting out feelings helps them seem less upsetting and frightening, so it’s important to have an outlet.
14. Keep everything in perspective. There will be times when you forget something or are running late or just feel like the end of the world is upon you. I myself tend to blow issues out of proportion. Then I tell myself in my head, no one’s going to execute you. And I realize it’s true, and stop worrying so much about a little slip-up I’ve made. I’ve also taught this strategy to my mom, who says it helps her as well.
15. Have a rest day. I am Jewish and don’t do schoolwork on the Sabbath, which is Saturday. Even if you are not religious, it is nice to take a day off at some point during the week. Having that rest day helps me have something to look forward to during the busy week. It also refreshes my attitude, so I am ready to work when the Sabbath is over.
I hope these tips are helpful to you in your quest to find peace in today’s anxious world. Have as good a back-to-school season as possible!