Finding Calm Amidst the Stress

At the beginning of this week, I sent in my pitch for this article. I would write about methods to decrease stress, I decided. The irony: now I am stressed about writing this article.

Over the past couple of weeks, it seems like everything in my life has developed the potential to become a stressor. Recently, I have decided to make a conscious effort to combat this stress. I’ve transitioned to drinking decaf coffee, which for me—an avid coffee drinker—was a big change. However, I have already noticed it helping a little. It seems to decrease my muscular tension, which helps me feel more relaxed. As an alternative to coffee, I’ve started drinking more chamomile tea. I like the feeling of a warm beverage in the mornings and evenings, so tea fills that role while also giving me the added benefits of chamomile’s natural relaxant properties.

Girl holding cup of coffee and book Photo by Vincenzo Malagoli from Pexels

I’ve also dabbled in meditation and yoga. If (like myself) you are a novice in these areas, I’ve found several easy starting points. As far as meditation goes, I’d recommend the Headspace app. In order to enjoy all the benefits, there are in-app purchases involved; however, I have still found the options available on the free version to be worthwhile. One aspect of Headspace that I find particularly convenient is that you can select how long you’d like your guided meditation to be. So if you only have 5 minutes to spare, you can select a 5 minute meditation. If you can allocate a lengthier block of time, there are options for longer meditations as well. If guided meditation isn’t your thing, don’t worry! Before discovering Headspace, most days I would set a timer on my phone (generally ranging from 5 to 20 minutes) and sit in a comfortable place with my eyes closed, focusing on breathing with no external distractions. I enjoy this method as well, but I do find it difficult to keep my thoughts from wandering (and racing) without the help of a guided meditation. When it comes to yoga, I’ve recently started exploring the YouTube page “Yoga With Adrienne.” It’s one of the more well-known online yoga platforms, and I’ve found her videos (particularly those with an emphasis on relaxation) to be an effective remedy to academic, social, and health related stress.

woman practicing yoga and meditating Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

When quarantine first began in the Spring, I started running every day. This went on for about two months as I gradually built up endurance and increased my daily mileage. I felt great...until I fractured my foot and had to stop running (and walking) for several weeks. Since my foot healed, I’ve started going on walks every day. Sometimes I jog a little bit too, but lately I’ve found that taking it slow is better for my internal well-being. A slow walk gives me the chance to contemplate my feelings, thoughts, and experiences. If you’re able, I recommend leaving your phone at home during walks. For me, this is helpful in order to stay in a calm state of mind without resorting to external distractions.

Woman running with a sunset in the background Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Perhaps the most significant way I have found to destress as of late has been allowing myself the time and energy to do what I like. In the past, my mentality has often been to finish all of my schoolwork and then, if there’s extra time, to do something fun. The problem with that approach is that the academic workload can be never ending. So instead, I’ve started setting aside time throughout my day to read a chapter of Harry Potter, paint with watercolors, rollerblade, bake...the options are endless. These are activities that, given my busy schedule, I normally wouldn’t reserve time for. However, I’ve found that giving myself that time and space helps me bring a more positive energy to the other aspects of my life. When I’m able to do the things I enjoy that don’t necessarily feel important, I feel able to devote more of myself to my work, my academics, and the things that do feel important, like friends, family, activism, and nature.

tree with orange and brown leaves Photo by Lina Kivaka from Pexels