Stop Stress before it Strikes

S T R E S S

The word you hear all around you everyday. Whether its you saying it yourself, or listening to a friend and responding with the ever original “Aw, that’s too bad!” It’s a negative mental health symptom that has become so mainstream, its lost its meaning.

You guys are going to hate me for suggesting this, but bear with me. Imagine yourself mid exam season. (Please don’t hit that unfollow button!) You’ve just finished your third mental breakdown, your teenage acne is the star of a one-man show, and you haven’t slept in days. You see your friends the next day and they ask you how you are, as usual. Deciding to be honest for once, you say “Guys, I’ve actually been feeling really stressed lately.” I bet many of you would be surprised if your friend actually gave some thought and asked “Why are you feeling stressed?” or “Have you been eating well lately? That always helps me.” 

I don’t know about you guys, but I personally avoid this conversation. Mentioning the word stress usually results in a Who’s-got-more-on-their-plate contest that I don’t want any part of. I think that says something about the mental health stigma these days.

Lucky for all of you who have ever suffered from stress and anxiety (Who am I kidding, I’m talking to anyone out there that will listen because everyone has experienced this at some point in life) I have come up with a fool-proof plan to stop stress before it strikes! While researching this subject across many other blogs, I’ve found that many have written about ways to de-stress and to calm down when feeling too stressed. What I wanted to do was come up with ways to keep stress from ever getting so bad that it compromises your daily living (face it, we’ve all been there).

5 WAYS TO KEEP STRESS FROM HURTING YOUR HEALTH

P L A N

I’m putting this point first because I truly feel it is one of the more important ones, and it has helped me immensely in keeping a calm mentality. Of course there are always surprises in life, but planning the supposed-to-happen events is key to keeping your cool when something unexpected does happen (because it will)

I’m not trying to sound cliché when I say that writing in an agenda, planner, or calendar of some sort is so helpful. Actually writing in meetings and appointments helps keep everything organized, and keeps you from stressing while trying to find that 1 email with your lunch meeting location (out of probably thousands of unfiltered emails, am i right?). 

For you students, I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to plan ahead (Not joking, it took me 5 minutes before I saw the pun). I’ve always called myself an “organized” person, but in reality it wasn’t until this past fall when I started my second year of University that I figured out the secret. Take one afternoon out of your week to write down all key dates for the semester and plan your classes and study schedule for the week in a daily to-do list. When I plan my priorities for each day ahead of time, it saves me from the un-needed stress later on trying to figure out what needs to be done first. This also helps me to keep up with my notes and revision every day, so that when it is 1 week until the midterm I am completely stress free because all I have to do is review content I’ve already revised. When I keep up with my revision each day, I give myself approx. 1 week to review for midterms and 2 weeks for each class for final exams. This strategy has seriously helped me keep calm, and bumped by GPA majorly! 🙂

R E S T

I have always been a huge advocat for getting enough sleep. Unless there are unforeseen circumstances, I always make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night (Yes, even in exam season). I know so many people that will just study until the sun rises the morning of their exam, which I’ve never fully understood the point of doing that when you could prepare ahead of time and have a stress-free sleep. The previous point of planning ties very closely with getting enough sleep. Planning your to-do lists ahead of time allows you to ensure you’re getting everything done that needs to be for the week, so you can go to sleep at a decent hour without worry. 

Getting enough sleep is critical to your physical and mental health. Sleeping too much or too little will hurt your mood, alertness, and anxiety among other things. There is nothing worse than having a poor sleep the night before an important day; you force yourself out of bed, down a coffee, and spend the day distracted thinking about your next opportunity to nap and thus disrupting your study schedule. 

I know so many people have troubles with this, especially when something important is at stake. But trust me, those extra 2 hours of studying will be worth nothing if you are nodding off, daydreaming, or drawing a blank during your test or presentation. Just get enough sleep, okay? It’s really a win-win situation. You get to sleep more and, as long as you are prepared, will also be stress-free!

C A L M 

Of course, all these tips are useless if you spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week doing nothing but studying, eating, and sleeping. As one of my favourite sayings goes..

TREAT YO’ SELF

You heard me! Not only is pampering yourself a good strategy for de-stressing, it is also a way to prevent stress as well. Take time out of your week (yes, every week) to do whatever it is you find calming and peaceful. It could be taking a tea-tree oil bath (one of my faves), doing a face mask, doing something creative, or something as simple as drinking a cup of tea while watching the rain fall. Think of it as a weekly reward for working so hard and staying on track! 

Another key thing I’ve discovered that I’ll let you in on is the importance of shutting out work and school before bed. So many times have I found myself studying up until I get too tired, and dreaming of flow charts and calculations. More often than not, I wake up more exhausted then the night before. There has been a lot of scrutiny lately about being electronic free for about an hour before falling asleep, which in my opinion is unrealistic. I actually find it so calming and relaxing to shut my textbooks and just spend the next hour lying in bed scrolling through facebook. I go to sleep with a calm mind and wake up refreshed! 🙂

S W E A T

“Really, Karen? Like I have time to exercise when I’m so busy!”

Whether it’s lifting weights in the gym or just going for a walk in the park, working up a sweat and increasing your heart rate can do so much for stress. It helps get your mind off all the things going on in your life, and you leave with a refreshed feeling to tackle your next task. 

“But, Karen? How is exercising going to keep stress from happening? Doesn’t it only calm you down?” 

Great question! It actually works hand-in-hand if you think about it. If you find a way to sweat that you absolutely love, a habit of doing it will eventually become your stress-free study break. Imagine spending the entire summer practicing yoga every sunday night. When school starts in the fall, many will shy away from their practice because they are too stressed. But if you keep up your habit, you will find yourself spending the whole week thinking “Man, I can’t wait until Sunday night to sweat this week off and start fresh!” I even found myself itching to go to the gym to get away from studying during exam season this past April! I always came back feeling like I had a clean-slate and double the focus!

E A T 

During weeks where there is potential for high stress situations, be especially aware of your diet. Products with excessive sugar, sodium, caffiene, and alcohol will only spike your anxiety and cause you to unhealthily stress over little things. Of course, quitting these things cold-turkey can have even worse effects. Adjust your diet to a point that keeps your mental health in check, while satisfying your emotional needs. A wise professor once said to my class:

“If you remember anything from this course it should be this: chocolate is good for the soul.” 

This way you will be getting the nutrients you need without depriving yourself. Eating an unhealthy diet will result in bloating, breakouts, and lethargy. And when you don’t feel good about yourself, your brain will be out to lunch. No doubt you will replace your study time with netflix marathons and naps; and if we learned anything from the past 4 tips, interrupting our study time means we are less prepared, leaving risk for a spike in anxiety and stress. This can all be avoided by just doing what your mother says and eating your vegetables (with a chocolate bar here and there)!

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Take your life week-by-week. Spend each sunday evening planning out your to-do lists for each day of the following week (bonus points if this includes your planning or prepping meals for each day!) Plan your days so you get enough (but not too much) work done each day, leaving enough time to eat healthy and sleep early! (Trust me, it is a lot easier than it sounds) Pick one day where you will spend the afternoon or evening doing whatever you please, wiping your mind clean of anything school related (I would recommend watching an episode on netflix, but we all know how that’ll turn out..). All these tips should help you from ever getting that “I have so much stuff to do so I’ll just take a nap instead” feeling ever again! 

That’s it! That’s all the wisdom I have for you today! I hope you guys enjoyed the read and I genuinely hope my tips help, let me know what you think in the comments! Be sure to check out my instagram page @absoluteliving_ !

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