Stress levels are at an all-time high this time of year, especially with final exams right around the corner. Most people experience physical symptoms of stress but they don’t always know how to identify them or, more importantly, how to manage them. This article discusses common physical responses to stress, and some strategies for stress relief.
When I’m overly stressed, one of my biggest indicators of that stress is when I’m having trouble sleeping. I have found that limiting screen time half an hour before bed has been most effective in combating this. I also keep an emergency supply of melatonin gummies on my bedside table and wear a sleep mask at night. When you’re exhausted, your reactions to other stressful situations are likely to be exacerbated , so getting enough sleep is crucial.
Headaches are a common symptom of stress and can sometimes be the most debilitating symptom. Speaking from experience, I can hardly focus when I’m down with a bad headache, which ends up stressing me out even more. Advil is great for short-term relief, but there are other things you can do to prevent stress-related headaches from occurring in the first place. Drinking water, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy, balanced meals have proven really effective in combatting these headaches.
Many people experience an elevated heart rate when they’re experiencing high-stress levels. This is mainly because our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress. One of the most common remedies for this symptom is listening to relaxing music during stressful tasks. Other techniques include practicing breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga.
Most college students experience stress throughout the entire semester, but especially towards its end with the approaching deadlines, final grades, and semester exams. It can take a huge toll on your ability to function in day-to-day life, so it’s important to know when stress is becoming a problem and learn how to manage it.
Tired and overwhelmed — the two perfect words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately.
There’s a certain sensation that buzzes around in the October air that looms around for quite a while, almost pulling and tugging at you as you try to live out your day: Midterm season.
It seems like just yesterday you were opening your syllabus for the first (and hopefully not last) time. Then, all of the sudden, we’re mid-semester. While it’s nice to be able to say that you’re halfway through your semester, it’s also scary to think about how much more there is to come.
Midterm exams, projects, deadlines, registration and literally everything else makes the never-ending to-do list even longer.
While I’m now in my junior year of college, it somehow feels like the hardest one I have experienced thus far. Having spent my first semester completely in-person pre-COVID and my second fall semester completely online, it seems like this weird hybrid semester has been so much worse.
Whether it’s because of the difficulty of my classes as an upperclassman or just having to get used to actually attending my classes in person and not from the comfort of my bed, this semester has been a different beast altogether.
To be frank, I started this semester with such high expectations considering the fact that I registered for five classes, became involved in three organizations, added a second major and even got a job. While I was somehow able to juggle all of that only a few months ago in my spring semester, this became a struggle this school year.
I’m not too sure if maybe it’s just me feeling this way or if others can relate at all but it hasn’t been very fun.
On the other hand, there could be much worse things happening. While I’m struggling this semester, there’s still a tomorrow.
While my professors and peers may not be too thrilled about my performance this semester, there is still in fact more ahead of this.
Everyone has a hard time at some point in their college career and it just so happens that this is my struggle semester. So, it’s absolutely okay if this is your struggle semester, too.
We will all get through this weird, difficult period together.
From as early as 2000 B.C. to modern day, essential oils have been used for their natural healing properties.
These fragrant oils have been used to serve culinary, therapeutic, and medicinal purposes. Today, their healing properties are most often used in the practice of Aromatherapy. During this practice, plant and fruit fragrance oils are inhaled for therapeutic use.
Essential oils stimulate the limbic system in your brain, an area that controls sense of smell, emotions, and even other physical aspects such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. In the practice of Aromatherapy, essential oils can promote relaxation, improve mood behaviors, and even relieve physical signs of stress on the body.
Individuals who rely on essential oils for their therapeutic and medical purposes have studied the benefits of each oil and different ways to purpose them throughout daily practices.
Oils and Their Uses
Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils on the market, and is most commonly seen in soaps, candles and various other bath products. One of the primary uses of lavender is to aid in deeper sleep.
According to a 2005 study, participants who placed lavender essential oil on the center of their wrists engaged in deeper and longer sleep patterns. Lavender has also helped individuals diagnosed with insomnia.
Although not as well known as lavender, sandalwood is another oil that is commonly used to calm and soothe. Research shows sandalwood can help mitigate individual cases of anxiety.
The essential oil bergamot is another oil that can be used as a mood enhancer.
A 2011 study measured the use of bergamot and its effect on the participants emotionally and physically. The participants rubbed bergamot oil on their abdominal area and results showed a decrease in pulse rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Participants also described their moods as “more calm” and “more relaxed.”
Chamomile is a plant most commonly used in herbal teas, but research shows that there are benefits of the essential oil as well.
There are many different ways you can feel the benefits of essential oils.
Essential Oil Diffuser
One of the most common ways to use oils is by an essential oil diffuser. An oil diffuser will mist out a combination of water and oil over an extended amount of time. Diffusers also add humidity to the air making your environment more calming and comfortable.
2. Shower Steaming
Another way to diffuse oils is in your bathroom. When taking a shower, place a few drops of essential oil by the shower drain. As shower heats up, the oils will begin to steam with the hot water, making your shower a luxury experience.
3 .Adding Oils to your Skin
Many people’s preferred use of oils is to apply them directly to the skin. The important thing to remember when using this practice is to dilute your oils with a secondary unscented oil such as caster oil or sweet almond oil. Some key places to rub the oil are wrists, temples, behind the ears and the bottom of your feet.
Essential oils have helped individuals re-center, relax and rehabilitate. However, essential oils do not work for every person and cannot replace modern medicine or doctor visits. Mental wellness is a unique journey for each individual and it is important to practice what feels right for you.
When we think of health today, we often think of physical health. We tend to believe that someone who holds a balanced diet and exercises regularly is in perfect health. While both of these things do lead to a healthier body they don’t always lead to a healthier mind.
Mental health is also a huge component to the overall health of an individual, although it tends to be treated as secondary to physical fitness. Being mindful about what you are feeding your body is vital, but you should also consider what you are feeding your mind and soul. You might be adequately exercising your physical strength but under exercising your mental strength. The training of the mind is arguably just as important as training of the physical form.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of teaching when it comes to how to provide for yourself mentally. We tend to be adequately informed on how to eat healthier and how to engage in physical activity, but we often don’t know how to calm our racing minds or treat our souls with kindness. For many individuals, meditation is the most beneficial way to prioritize their mental health and practice training of the mind.
What is meditation?
Meditation can have various definitions and spiritual meanings. In essence. meditation is the practice of centering the mind in order to clear your head and refocus your thoughts. While meditation has previously been used for spiritual and religious reasons only, it is now common for individuals to practice meditation in their private and professional lives outside of their spirituality.
A common term used alongside meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about bringing your thoughts to the present and releasing your thoughts about the moments to come. Engaging in the present is what meditations seeks to achieve as it allows you to disconnect from stress, anxiety, and fear.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation is much like physical activity in the sense that not every participant will share the same experiences or reap the same benefits. Although, meditation has been known to not only provide mental benefits but physical benefits as well.
According to The Art of Living, the physical benefits of meditation can include:
A decrease in high blood pressure
An improved immune system
Increase in positive mood and behavior
Higher energy levels
The mental benefits of meditation are:
Decrease in feelings of anxiety
Increase in happiness
A sharper and clearer mind
The ability to better handle and cope with feelings such as anger frustration, and sadness.
As busy college students some weeks we find ourselves stressed with course work, low on energy, and sick from the germs swarming in our community bathrooms. Although, meditation is not the solution to every problem you might face its benefits serve to show that a mind practicing meditation is a mind that can better handle the obstacles set in its path.
Tips for beginning meditation
By now I hope you are at least the slightest bit interested in engaging in meditation. Due to the numerous benefits and the simplicity of the practice, meditation is a very rewarding and achievable experience to be had. If you are thinking about giving it a try, here are some helpful tips.
Don’t set any any expectations for yourself
It is all too often that individuals treat meditation as a task to complete on their checklist. With this attitude meditation becomes more of a challenge or conquest than it does an experience. To reap the full benefits of meditation approach the practice with an open mind. Don’t expect yourself to be skilled at mindfulness upon your first try. It is very challenging to not let your mind wander and to stay focused and calm. Meditation is a practice because it takes time to develop skills and become successful;. Remember to always have grace with yourself and that providing yourself the time to meditation is already an achievement into bettering your mental health
2. Don’t be afraid of guided meditation
One of the great things about the practice of non-spiritual meditation is the creation of apps and websites that provide guided meditations. A guided meditation instructs you on how to practice the centering of thoughts and encourages you to fall into a deep state of relaxation. Although some might argue that meditation needs to occur in a place separate from all technology and distractions, guided meditations are a great way to begin your journey and gain knowledge on what techniques benefit you the most. There are a plethora of services, and apps that provide these walkthroughs so just experiment with a few and find what makes meditation the most enjoyable and rewarding for you specifically.
3. Make the most out of your experience
Customizing meditation to your needs and wants is acceptable and vital. Maybe you schedule doesn’t allow for a 30 minute deep relaxation. This is okay, and in no way does this mean meditation is not for you. Meditation can be whatever you make of it. Take a few moments in between classes to breath and recenter yourself. Practice for a few seconds before turning on your car while traveling to work. Meditation is portable and can be practiced anywhere an at anytime.
Remember, meditation might not be for all individuals and this is okay. Prioritizing your mental health can look like many different activities and practices not just meditation alone. Whatever you do, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and engage in something that beneficial to your mind, body and soul.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
*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.
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.
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.
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?
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 dog sit 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.