How to Keep a Positive Mindset in the Face of Stress
If you’re like me, not only are you a full time student, but you’re also juggling a job, being involved in organizations, homework, creative projects and somehow finding the time to have some iota of a social life. College, really just life in general, is rough and the stigma around mental health makes it all the more difficult to face. In case you’re unfamiliar with the topic, mental health is somewhat taboo in most social situations so people tend to put it on the back-burner.
To quote the words of a popular Vine, “That is not correct”. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, if not more so. We all have issues that we’re doing our best to conquer on our own. (And you go, queen, you’re doing great.) But just in case you think you need some advice or help from someone who is struggling through the same thing, here are some tips that help me to get through those especially rough days.
1. Make a list; of things that matter and things that don’t, of things you’re thankful for, of things you know you want to change.
I know it sounds cheesy. But I did this my freshman year, when I was feeling especially overwhelmed for the first time and it helped me to take a deep breath, both mentally and physically. I made a list of all the good things in my life and all the things that weren’t going too well for me. Then I went through the latter list and wrote out why they weren’t important or how I could make those things better. This could go downhill very quickly so be sure to pay more attention to the happier list and not put too much importance on the troublesome list. Or, better yet, only make a happy list. I’m personally more of a realist so I like to consider both sides but if you’d rather look at the optimistic side of things, you do you, boo.
2. Take some time for yourself.
It’s hard to get away from responsibilities. For some people, i.e. me, it’s hard to say no when people ask you to do things so you end up with too many rolls on your metaphorical plate. However, it’s important to take care of yourself as well as others. Take some time out of the day, or at the very least once a week, to do something for yourself. It could be as simple as taking a break from homework to having a bubble bath and reading your favorite book while a face mask soaks your skin with all kinds of moisturizers. Is it obvious which one I’m fantasizing about more?
3. Surround yourself with things you love
Because so much time out of the day is dedicated to schoolwork/things we have to do, I think surrounding yourself with things you love when you can becomes even more important. By this, I mean that you should find things that bring you more joy than anything else. If you’re stuck in an organization that only stresses you out, maybe it’s time to find another place to spend your time. If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy, maybe it’s time to move on. And this doesn’t have to involve people; in fact, sometimes the things you’re surrounding yourself with aren’t people at all. If you want to go to your room, close the door and read books for hours on end, then that’s what you need to do. Not wanting to be around people is completely normal and is something I find myself wanting often. Although, it is important to note that you should be careful not to push away people that care about you. There are ways to be alone that don’t hurt those who want to spend time with you. It’s all about communication and letting them know that it’s not them, it’s you. Unless you’re breaking up with someone…then you should never use that line.
4. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
Trust and believe that I know how awful this sounds. I hardly have time to exercise, let alone want to. My mom always told me to do this in high school and I blew her off due to the simple fact that I didn’t want to. However, now it’s one of the most effective strategies I use to battle anxiety and stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise and other physical activities reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and enhance overall cognitive function. It doesn’t even have to be as time consuming as going to the gym; meditation, going for a walk, even just taking a really deep breath is enough to release those sweet, sweet endorphins. One of my best friends does yoga right after she wakes up and she swears by it. It’s not about having the time but about making the time.
5. *My Chemical Romance voice* Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls…
SINGING! Jamming is the best form of self-healing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any reliable statistics to back up this theory. But I have years and years of personal experience that I could share, if you cared enough to ask. Blasting your favorite songs and belting out the lyrics either in the car, with your friends, or whilst performing in the shower is one of the easiest and most fun ways to occupy your time and your mind. Or, if you ever need a good cry, create a sad playlist (or you can use mine) and cry out every failed test, dead pet and broken heart you’ve ever had. You’ll feel much better afterwards. My roommates think I’m crazy for suggesting it but it’s therapeutic to me.
6. Find some time in the day to get sh*t done.
It sounds simple but it’s really not. We get overwhelmed and flustered and then, next thing we know, our eyes burst open at 2 o’clock in the morning because we forgot about that essay that’s due tomorrow. So, find some time in the day to sit down and feel productive. It can be as easy as sitting in the Union and cracking out a few emails or writing your thesis for that paper you’re dreading. Hopefully this will make you feel more confident in your work and inspire you to continue your progress when you get home. But, if not, it’s a way to justify binging Game of Thrones when you should be working on homework.
7. Watch your favorite movie/tv show.
I’m a film major so I’m fairly biased when it comes to this. However, transparency aside, it’s hard to overthink when you’re not thinking about anything at all. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down, put on your favorite movie and let the actors take you away. My particular favorite is when you decide to watch a movie from your childhood. That’s when the nostalgia hits you in the gut. But it’s a love punch so it doesn’t hurt.
8. Find healthier outlets that don’t involve mind-altering substances.
You know the saying: say nope to dope. This is definitely not to shame anyone who decides to partake but if you’re dealing with stress or anxiety, it’s really not a good idea. A popular myth is that some drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, help you to forget about your problems and just make you feel g o o d. The truth of the matter is that these things can make you feel better for a short period of time but in the end, you just feel worse than before you started. It may be tempting but it’s always better to just say nay. Instead, have a talk with some friends or try any of the other tips on the list before resorting to this option.
Again, I have no statistic to back this up and this is completely a subjective opinion because I personally use the title of “writer” to describe myself. However, there is a reason that every cheesy teen pic has a character that keeps a diary. Writing out your feelings helps you to sort out your inner workings. Not to mention, writing is fun. Keep a daily journal, either by writing or typing, and chronicle your day in the life. You can write about anything you want, from what you had for breakfast to which professor you have a crush on this semester. What better person to vent to besides yourself?
10. Find a puppy. Or a cat. Or a giant lizard.
Finally, there is my personal favorite: PUPPIES! If you’re like me, you had to leave your dogs back at home and from time to time, you go through dog withdrawal while at school. The easiest cure for this is to find a pup to love on in their absence. You could find a family member or friend to dogsit for or you could even volunteer at a local shelter, if you have the time. Regardless, it’s hard to be upset when you’re loving on a cuddly mammal. Dogs are support animals for a reason. Of course, not everyone is a dog person. This is also applicable to cats, birds, hamsters and, if you’re like my roommate, giant lizards. Animals are almost always better company than people anyway.
As much as I want them to be, none of this advice is foolproof. Life is hard and sometimes it takes more than advice from a 20-year-old to help you feel better. Please, check out these links if you’re going through a rough time and are in need of professional help. Remember: you are not alone and you are loved. You’re doing the best you can.