ollege is meant to be one of the most life-changing, exciting times of your life, but it can also be the most stressful. Between juggling different classes, dozens of papers to finish, internships, and incorporating a social life at the same time, it can feel nearly impossible.
Not to mention you’re expected to figure out what career path you want to pursue for the rest of your life when your life feels like it’s just beginning.
College overwhelms even the most determined student, which is why it’s so necessary to have a playbook of ways to destress when busy days and schedules add up to the point where it feels like it’s dragging you under.
Stress is different for everyone which means the ways in which people destress also feels very personal to them--one solution doesn’t work for everyone. But that’s why it’s great that there are so many different relaxation avenues out there to try.
No one should have to go at it alone, especially during a time when everything seems so uncertain. It’s hard enough that you’re balancing all of these different responsibilities, but to do it during a worldwide pandemic is borderline heroic.
You deserve to take some time off, pull out that yoga mat and find your center. Here are some of the best ways for college kids to manage stress and relax:
Whether you love it or hate it, exercise has been proven time and time again to help with relaxation. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins that create positive feelings within your brain which can help reduce stress, improve sleep function, and increase overall mood. Not to mention, you’ll be improving your physical health as well.
Exercise doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and strenuous either. There are plenty of ways to exercise that are still enjoyable and make the time fly by way faster than running on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
Sports are a great way to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. Basketball, racquetball, and tennis are available at most gyms and can create a high intensity workout that actually feels fun.
If you’re looking for something slower paced, yoga is one of the top ways to relax while still activating muscles and supporting physical fitness. There are dozens of free yoga classes on youtube and all you need is a mat and an area to move around.
Did you know that dancing burns more calories than running, biking, and swimming so you’ll be killing calories while you’re killing it on the dance floor? It’s true.
2. Take the pressure off
It’s really easy for some people to adopt the attitude in college that you have to be perfect all of the time to be successful. Whether you’re a student athlete trying to make your way up the team ranks or a bright student trying to keep straight A’s to impress parents and potential employers, it’s okay to take a step back and remember that even though this feels like a monumental time in your life, you’re still human and everyone--even the big shots at the top, need a little time to relax.
Limit the use of the word “should”
We live in a world where everyone is constantly telling themselves that we should be doing this or we should be doing that. Using this type of language is judgmental and can be damaging to the way we interact with ourselves, causing unnecessary anxiety and stress from the feelings of guilt that the word brings up.
Instead of telling yourself why you should be doing something and feeling like you’ve already failed, you can replace “should” with words that create a choice like “could,” “would,” “get,” and “can.” So instead of “I should go to the gym” you can say “I get to go to the gym” and you’ll be giving yourself a choice instead of making yourself feel a sense of guilt around something you plan to do.
Speak to yourself in a nicer tone.
Maybe you’re lashing out at yourself for getting a D on a midterm or mad that you forgot about the study session the day before the test. Self-deprecating thoughts come so frequently for some people that you might not even realize you’re doing it.
The more often we speak negatively to ourselves, the more likely we are to make a habit of it--which can become harmful in the long run.
Next time you feel yourself getting verbally abusive in your own head, take a metaphorical step back and try to think about what you’re saying to yourself and why. Then rephrase the attack to give yourself the benefit of the doubt.
Stress usually materializes when a person is anticipating something that hasn’t happened yet. Meditation can help relieve those anxieties by helping you ground yourself, focus on the breath, and feel present living in the here and now.
It seems so simple, sitting and breathing, but meditation is proven to hold a number of health benefits that all relate back to relieving stress and finding your relaxation.
There are dozens of meditation apps available that provide guided meditations for beginners to follow. They’re especially helpful at night if you’re someone who has a hard time falling asleep because of daily stress.
Insight Timer is a great free meditation app that comes with a wide variety of options for every situation you’re in.
4. Go outside
The great outdoors wasn’t named that for nothing! Researchers have found that spending 120 minutes outdoors a week can increase your mood and overall well-being. It’s as simple as walking out the front door and walking around. Or you can sit outside and read, study, people watch (our fave), or do anything that helps you increase your time in the outdoors.
If you’re someone who isn’t a fan of the cold, even looking outside is proven to help with your mood. When you’re indoors all day, it’s easy to get stuck in a stressful funk. Take some time to stare outside or rearrange your furniture so your desk faces a window. Your mind will thank you.
5. Try journaling
Journaling can be a cathartic activity for anyone going through a time of heightened stress or anxiety. Don’t get hung up on the quality of your writing when journaling, it’s the process of writing your stressors down that helps release tension.
Writing your feelings of anxiety out onto paper helps you slow down and process what you’re feeling, making it easier to relax and resume your day on a more positive note.
If you’re having a tough time feeling thankful, gratitude journals are another great way to encourage relaxation and make a habit of thinking positively.
As a college student, you already have everything you need to start journaling: A pen and paper. If you don’t, I’m sure you could steal some from the library, but don’t tell them who sent you.
6. Surround yourself with people who make you feel happy
One of the best parts of college is being so close to your friends. It’s like a 4 year sleepover where you can eat pizza every night if you want. So, great news! Spending time with friends is crucial to relaxation. They can distract from stressful thoughts and help suggest ways to fix the tension you’re feeling.
It’s easy to want to be alone when something is heavily stressing you out, but isolating yourself only increases the amount that you think about what caused you stress in the first place. Friends increase feelings of purpose and self-confidence which improves your overall mood and allows you to escape from the stressful funk you may be feeling.
7. Treat yo self
Retail therapy is a real thing. Buying yourself something that you know will increase your value of life is a great way to destress. Bonus points if what you buy actually does the de-stressing for you. No matter what your budget is, there are great options for everyone:
If you’re ballin’ on a budget:
- Stress ball. This one sounds like a no brainer, but stress balls really are proven to help people relax. There are so many different kinds to choose from too.
- Fuzzy socks. It’s not scientifically proven that you can’t feel stressed in a pair of fuzzy socks, but we’re pretty sure there’s some truth behind that theory.
Middle of the road:
- Essential oil diffuser. There are so many essential oils to choose from that are perfect for relaxation. Anything from eucalyptus to lavender will help your day go from crazy to calm.
- Skin Care. Nothing says relaxation like a calming face mask before bed. Throw on a spa playlist from Spotify and you’re golden.
- Weighted blanket. Nothing is more relaxing than throwing a plush 18 pound blanket on top of yourself and letting the worries melt away.
8. Organize/do some home improvement
It’s hard to stay stressed when you know you’re actively making positive improvements in your life. They don’t have to be huge changes, but something as small as organizing your closet and getting rid of clothes you no longer wear can feel like you’re cleansing your space of old and making room for new.
Living in a dorm may pose some restrictions on the changes you can make, but even small changes like adding in new decor or rearranging furniture can really help create a new feeling about the space you’re in if you’re feeling stressed or stuck.
9. Put your phone down
Phones have become ingrained in our daily lives. Maybe you only use yours for text messages and email, or maybe you’re so involved with social media platforms that you find yourself scrolling through the Venmo timeline like it’s Twitter. Social media can have a strong grip on our lives, especially when it’s our main outlet for news and other information, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose touch with reality.
Although social media was initially created to connect people, studies have shown that frequent social media usage is causing difficulty with in-person communication, increased stress levels, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. So, if you’ve tried to relax in a number of different ways, but nothing seems to dull the stress you feel--social media may be the root of your issues.
You might be wondering how to kick the habit. Some options to keep social media from overwhelming your life are:
Give me a good reason
Create a list of all the things you wish you did more/could be doing instead of scrolling through social media. Think about what the payoff of each activity is.
- Exercising- payoff: getting in shape
- Reading- payoff: sharpening my mind
- Going for a walk- payoff: seeing new places around my city.
Now, try to think of the payoff that you get from extensive social media use. Next time you’re about to watch the big screen while scrolling through your little screen, try implementing one of these other activities and see how much better you’ll feel.
Try a little distance
Keep your phone on the other side of the room while you’re studying or sleeping. This will keep you from checking it so frequently and may even stop the habit entirely.
Keep it on a time limit
Give yourself designated social media time, so that way you don’t overload yourself throughout the whole day. An hour or two of social media won’t kill you, but using up large amounts of your free time constantly scrolling won’t do anything positive for your mental health or your relaxation.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed by a hectic college schedule, take a deep breath, and remember you have a variety of options to help reduce stress and increase relaxation.