How To Better Manage Your Stress

Student life can be stressful. We lead busy lives, trying to juggle school with work, volunteering, club meetings, sports practices and much more! Beyond that, sometimes there are family problems and relationship issues to deal with. For high school students, with final and diploma exams right around the corner, stress levels can be at an all-time high. Having the optimal level of stress can help us feel alert, energetic and motivated. However, too much stress can make us feel anxious and tense. So how do we achieve the perfect balance?

There are a variety of methods to cope with stress, including sleeping well, eating right, and exercising.

Although getting enough sleep every night keeps us alert during our classes and enables us to focus when we are studying, most students do not get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Being tired makes us agitated and impatient, making it even more difficult to get through the day! From time to time, we want the extra boost of energy that caffeine can provide. However, caffeine disrupts the sleep cycle and perpetuates fatigue and stress. Instead, take a nap and get some well-deserved rest. Being tired is how our bodies communicate our need for sleep – so we might as well give it some.

One of the major reasons we lack sleep is inefficient time management. Personally, I have found that creating a weekly/daily schedule and a study plan really helps me manage my time. I set aside 5-10 minutes every morning to create a detailed daily study plan, which keeps me organized and helps me focus on the tasks at hand. Following a schedule reduces procrastination, which is a significant cause of stress. This simple method creates more time for sleep, especially during midterms and finals. To further reduce procrastination during finals, deactivate your social media accounts. I found that I was so much more productive this past finals season when I deactivated my Facebook account.

Aside from getting sufficient sleep, we can also refuel our body through food. Regularly eating healthy, balanced meals can help regulate our body rhythms, which enable us to maintain high metabolic rates and keep us alert. Often, hunger and stress lead us to make poor meal and snack choices; we choose foods such as burgers, fries, chips and cake over healthier options. However, after eating unhealthy foods, we feel sluggish and have difficulty focusing. Sticking to a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates allow our bodies to get adequate nutrition.

This term, I was introduced to the art of making smoothies, and am now addicted. Smoothies are excellent for a quick snack, or an on-the-go breakfast. There are a plethora of benefits to drinking smoothies: they’re quick to make, easy to ingest, fulfilling and extremely versatile. If you add the right ingredients, they can be the perfect, healthy super-food. Make sure you watch your ingredients though! Otherwise, the calories, sugars, and fats add up! When I make smoothies, I usually add fruits like bananas, almond milk, and sometimes a dab of honey to sweeten things up. To maintain a smoothie’s flavor and consistency, I add  fresh fruit that I cut  up, and freeze. Also, I use bananas and occasionally, avocados as thickening agents. To make a smoothie even more nutritious, you can add veggies such as spinach, kale, and carrots to create a “green smoothie”. Here is a chart that I use to create a delicious and healthy smoothie: http://thebeautythesis.com/2012/11/16/tips-tricks-how-to-make-a-smoothie-chart/

To reduce stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise is critical. Try to hit the gym at least a couple of times a week. If the gym is not for you, try fitness classes like yoga. Yoga is a great, relaxing workout that reduces stress significantly. Yoga emphasizes deep breathing, to relax the body and the mind. Additionally, yoga improves flexibility, balance and posture. If you don’t like indoor activities, consider running. Alternatively, you can gather a few friends for a friendly game of soccer. Exercise has immense physical and psychological benefits!

The best way to maintain a regular exercise regimen is to discover your favorite physical activities.  This doesn’t necessarily have to be going to the gym. If you are a sports person, then play sports that you enjoy! Personally for me, I enjoy playing sports and exercising outdoors (when the weather is nice) more than working out indoors at a gym. During the summer, I attend ballet class, go on long walks, and hike with friends. During the winter, I play rec volleyball at school, go to ballet classes and work out at the gym. This April, during finals, I tried out yoga. After doing some morning yoga, I felt relaxed and refreshed. Consequently, I could concentrate better while studying.

Stress is healthy in the right amounts. All we have to do is manage it the right way!

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