t’s that time of year again. Your laundry probably isn’t done, the milk in your fridge is expired, and let’s not even mention the gym. For some of us, perhaps, these are the main casualties of the wrath of finals season. For others, restless nights and anxiety-filled days loom on the horizon of the weeks leading up to Christmas.
What are the little things we can do to remind our bodies and spirits that the battle will soon end? How can we clear our overworked minds and bring sharp focus to the tasks at hand? We’ve all been told to sleep, eat well, and work out, but somehow these things fall to the bottom of the to-do list. However, there are simple and easy ways to weave stress-relieving activities into your daily schedule. These suggestions will save you the time you would have spent breaking down, and help you attack your assignments full-force.
Music. Cliché and not helpful, right? We all listen to music while we are studying or walking to class, but some more specific information about how and when to listen to music might be useful. Calm music in particular can lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Slow, quiet classical music has been proven to have calming affects on the body. If you’re not a fan of that genre, choose songs you might listen to on a summer bike ride or while lying on the beach. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at Van Pelt, divert your attention from your work and listen to one or two of the most beautiful songs you know. Then re-apply your focus after the effects of the music have taken hold in your system.
Cut the caffeine. Although the short-term spike in heart rate gives us a brief experience of elated energy, it inhibits absorption of adenosine, which calms the body, and increases cortisol. Green tea is a nice alternative because it has significantly less caffeine and contains theanine, an amino acid that has calming effects. Additionally, try closing your eyes for just twenty minutes, instead of downing energy drinks. Sometimes simply letting your mind rest will allow you to naturally improve your focus.
Stretch it out. Although most of us know this, exercise does increase natural energy and relieve stress. However, some of us are more inclined to hit the gym than others. If you belong to the latter group, a good alternative is stretching. Stretching will get your blood flowing after sitting or being idle an extended period of time. Unlike running on the treadmill, stretching generally feels pleasant and comforting. Try reversing the effects of sitting in a chair by standing up and leaning towards your toes. This releases the tension from your neck, torso, and head. Gently nodding your head yes and no in this position is a useful way to ensure that you have released the tension in your neck. Perhaps do this while listening to the calming songs you selected.
In general, remember that self-care does not have to be time-consuming. Read over your notes while your nails are drying, apply a Lush face mask while your editing your paper, and take a mere ten minutes for a hot shower. These activities are productive and harmless ways to remind yourself that you come first. Not taking care of yourself, ignoring your body when it’s tense, and working your brain when it’s exhausted will not improve your performance. Take the time to do things that will yield the best results and keep you feeling balanced during this stressful time.