Hello everyone! Ready to start this week off on the right foot? I know I am! I only have one more week left of classes for the semester and I am so excited! With that being said, I know there is a lot of stress going on for everyone. Whether it be last week’s election, getting ready for finals, or anything else, we must all take some time to relax. That is why I wanted to give you a few tips today on how I relax. Honestly, I can be a pretty tense person and I need to face that fact. When I get nervous, I get REALLY nervous, to the point where my stomach hurts. However, I have learned how to control that over the years and how to be more in tune with myself. I included this post as part of the College Life with EG series, but it can honestly be applied to anyone, at any point in your life! First, I want to explain what stress is and how important it is to take some time to relax, and then I will go into a few of my favorite ways to do this.
What is Stress?
When we become stressed, it can cause many physical, emotional, and mental issues. It comes with so much that you may not think about. I am sure you’ve heard this a million times, but stress can cause mental issues such as poor judgment and lack of concentration, physical issues such as stomach pains and nausea, and emotional issues such as depression and irritability. That being said, there is so much you can do to help yourself, especially before you reach the point of “too much stress.” Yes, there is optimal stress, which is just the right about of stress to be productive and move forward. However, past optimal stress comes distress, which is negative stress that causes negative effects on our bodies. When you’re stressed, the body puts out stress hormones, which is where the sympathetic nervous system comes into play. The sympathetic nervous system causes your increased heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating.
The body goes through three “phases” in response to stress, which are the alarm reaction, adaptation, and exhaustion. In the alarm phase your body gets really excited and prepares for the fight or flight, but it cannot stay here very long. Next comes the resistance stage, where your body tries to resist the stress. If it successfully does this, the stress can go away. However, if the stress continues and the body cannot maintain its defense, you will finally reach exhaustion. At this point, your body is exhausted and this could result in illness.
Why Relaxation is so Important
Besides all the negative effects of stress, there are many BENEFITS of relaxing. I won’t go into too much depth, but it can obviously aid in your physical, emotional, and mental health. Physical benefits include a lower heart rate and blood pressure (the opposite of these increasing due to stress), less body pain, and loosened muscles. Emotional benefits include happiness, high self esteem, and confidence. Finally, mental benefits include more energy, better sleep, and a sense of calm in the world. If you think about all the negative effects of stress, most can be reversed with relaxation techniques.
Now, what you have all been waiting for.. ways to relax your mind and body!!
- Meditation: this is a great way to not only relax your mind, but also your body. There are many types of meditation, and you can look them up or just do your own thing. The major goal is to focus on clearing your mind, breathing, and being in tune with your body. The benefits of meditation include lowering anxiety, helping illnesses, creating a sense of calm, etc. Mayo Clinic says that you need five things for meditation: full attention, a breathing pattern, a private, quiet, setting, an enjoyable position, and an open mind. If you need some ideas on how to meditate, visit this website!
- Reading: there is really nothing better than reading a good book! When I need to take my mind off of something, I dive right into my book. Whether you enjoy love stories or scary ones, reading can help ease the mind and make you feel so much better. I recommend putting on your pajamas, getting under a warm blanket, and making making some hot cocoa when you read. If you’re comfy it makes the experience so much better. While I do love psychological thrillers, when I am stressed that is NOT the type of book I look for. Instead, I would turn to a Nicolas Sparks novel or something more “laid back.” You don’t want to have to think too much about the book, or if the main character is going to be killed.
- Baking/cooking: Baking is one of my favorite things in the world! Whenever I come home from college, I bake at least one desert… per day. Is it Halloween? We must have Halloween cookies! Is it Christmas? Must have Christmas cookies! Is it the second Friday of the month? Perfect, cupcakes for the second Friday of the month! The point is, cooking/baking can take your mind off of anything stressing you out, and you get to eat delicious food after. A win-win if you ask me. It also encourages you to release some creativity. You can always fine tune something exactly how you like it, and make up new recipes! If you’re baking, there are a million ways to frost a cupcake. I always try to make the cutest deserts, and sometimes they just look like blobs of nothing, but that’s okay! Just try your best and be creative:)
- Deep breathing: this is probably the most obvious relaxation technique but I think people just look past it sometimes. I talked about deep breathing in my “Sleeping at College” blog as well. If you picture your breathing when you are relaxed, what does it look like? Slow and calm, right? So it makes sense that when you are anxious, a good way to relax is to take some deep breaths and focus on only that. A quick fact about why deep breathing is good for you (biology wise) is that it increases the amount of oxygen your brain receives, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (which increases heart rate, blood pressure, etc) because it calms your body down. If you need some techniques on how to practice deep breathing, try this website!
- Sleep: sleep is a great way to get your mind off of everything, and everyone needs it! When you have gotten an adequate amount of sleep, you can handle stress better. However, it is important that you don’t just make sleeping your “scapegoat.” Like I said before, stress hurts your ability to concentrate, while sleep can help restore that. It also restores the calmness in your body and gives you more energy. Lack of sleep can also mess with your hormones which is never a good thing, especially when you already are stressed. Plus, I don’t think there is anyone out there who would say that a nap wouldn’t be amazing! I would suggest getting into a sleep schedule where you get at least eight hours of sleep as well as taking a nap sometimes throughout the week if your body needs it.
- Yoga: no matter what shape you’re in, yoga is a great form of exercise and a great way to relax. Not only is it great for the body, but it’s great for the mind, which is what I really wanted to focus on with this post. On the physical side of things, it eases up tension on the muscles, increases flexibility, and decreases pain from anything else going on in your body. On the mental side of things, yoga refocuses your attention, calms the mind, and helps you concentrate. There are many ways to do yoga, from an actual class to a video on your phone to making your own yoga routine. Whichever you choose, make it YOUR yoga. The goal is to tune into your body and to be able to do what you need. Yoga sessions can last from 10 minutes to an hour (or longer) depending on the time you have and what you need that day. If you only have ten minutes before your next meeting, great, get some yoga in. Feeling bored at night? Great, do some yoga. Yoga with Adriene is a free YouTube Chanel with all types of yoga workouts! Grab your mat and find your zen!
- Art (any form you please): honestly, I love all types of art. I love drawing, painting, ceramics, anything you can imagine. That being said, I am not the best at it. My biggest problem is that I want it to be perfect, and sometimes that causes me more anxiety. However, I have realized I must relax and enjoy myself. Who cares what your art looks like, it’s yours! Art is so amazing for you because it increases your creativity, and you can create anything you could ever imagine. Sometimes you might want to draw a beautiful flower and sometimes you want to draw your inner demons. Or, if you aren’t feeling super creative, you can use a coloring book! No shame in that 🙂
- ANY self care activity: a self care activity is anything you do for yourself that makes you feel GOOD (this can include any of the relaxation techniques on this list). I have a whole list of ideas on my blog post, Surviving the First Week of College! Before you can have a good relationship with others, you must have a good relationship with yourself. I believe self care activities can get you so much more in tune with yourself, and boost your self confidence. Some people brush over self care or think that it makes them selfish… it doesn’t! You are not doing self care activities because you care about your needs over others, you do it because you recognize you do need YOU time! If you can make time for yourself just for five minutes a day, you will feel so much better. If you can have an entire DAY for self care, that is perfect. We all have different needs and time constraints, but try to work at least a little time for self care into your life.
- Journaling: this is another one of my favorites, partially because I love all the different types of journals out there. I could sit at a store and look at journals for HOURS, and I already have way more than I will ever use. In a journal, you can write down any feelings, thoughts, or questions you ever have. If you had a bad day, you can write it down. If you had an amazing day, write it down as well. I love blank journals, but I also love prompted journals like this one(my boyfriend bought me it for Christmas and it is so awesome!). Sometimes it’s just nice to write out all your thoughts because you can get your anger out on the paper rather than on a person. Furthermore, I think memories are really important, and you can put those in a journal. Eventually, I would love to fill out journal prompts daily. Something that goes over my highs and lows of the day, something I learned, etc. Maybe I will make a bullet journal page for that in the future!
- BLOGGING, duh:): I mentioned it before, but I would highly recommend blogging to all of you. Many of my followers are bloggers, but if you are not, why not give it a try? It’s a lot like journaling, but you can take it anywhere you want. If you want it to just be for you, great! If you want the world to see, great! In a blog, you can get all your anger out just like a journal. Or, you can turn it into something creative where you share ideas and inspiration. Blogging can help you get focused and organized, as well as work on your writing skills. I am by no means an amazing writer (and I never liked English class), but I would argue that blogging has improved my skills so much more than I could ever have imagined. P.S. If you are going to share your blog with the world, make sure you do not have TOO much personal information on there;)
That’s all I have for you today! I hope you all have a relaxing rest of your weeks. Let me know in the comments which of these strategies you try out!