As the mid-semester rush of homework and tests falls upon Loyola students once again, I find that it’s important to take a moment in-between midterms to collect myself and relieve some pent-up stress. Whenever I feel like I’ve been spending too much time hidden away in the stacks of Cudahy Library, I hop on the L in search of a place where I can sit down and think about something other than my to-do list for a moment. While it’s clearly important to allot time towards studying and staying on top of classwork, it’s also crucial to take care of your health and find an outlet for the excess stress your body endures during the week. When your professor assigns that intimidating 6-page paper that’s due in a week, your body releases cortisol (the stress hormones) in order to give you the energy and motivation to finish it on time. When these elevated levels of cortisol are prolonged for too long, your body starts to suffer a number of issues including the weakening of your immune system, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and weight gain (1). Luckily for us, modern research has a number of suggestions to help us reduce this excess stress.
Make some new friends at The CatCade – 1235 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
It has been scientifically proven that spending quality time with animals lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol levels and facilitates the release of dopamine (the happiness endorphin). The Catcade is a non-profit cat cafe, rescue, and lounge complete with old-school arcade machines such as Pacman and Space Invaders. After paying a $15 contribution towards running the adoption program for the rescued cats that live at the cafe, patrons can hang out in a cozy lounge, have a drink, and spend some quality time with some friendly felines. Just the act of petting a cat releases stress-relieving feel-good endorphins in both yourself and your new friend (1)!
Take a moment to meditate at the Baha’i House of Worship – 100 Linden Ave, Wilmette, IL 60091
Sometimes it’s important to find an oasis you can escape to outside of the bustling city. The Baha’i temple is a shining white sanctuary that rests nearby a charming beach park in Wilmette, which is only a 5 minute walk from the Linden Purple Line stop. This beautiful work of architecture is a non-denominational place of worship, meaning that it is open to people of all walks of life and religious backgrounds. Sitting under the mesmerizingly intricate dome that encases the temple reminds me to appreciate the little details in life that I tend to ignore when I focus too much on my daily duties.
Appreciate nature at the Lincoln Park Conservatory – 2391 N Stockton Dr, Chicago, IL 60614
Being cooped up in a dingy old library for multiple hours a day doesn’t do much good for your mental health. Humans need to spend time in nature to live healthy and productive lives. The Lincoln Park Conservatory sits right beside the Lincoln Park Zoo in (you guessed it!) Lincoln Park. The indoor conservatory is home to thousands of species of exotic plant life. Once inside, you will find yourself strolling through a serene maze of rooms covered in flourishing greenery (2)
Paint pottery at Glazed Expressions – 717 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Grab your friends and have a pottery painting day! Though the activity may seem like it’s reserved for children’s birthday parties, creativity isn’t limited to any one specific age group. Simply pick a ceramic piece to work on, grab your paintbrush, and let your creativity flow. Art in basically any form is a proven to be therapeutic and beneficial to improving your mood and self-confidence , and this includes making or listening to music, cooking, writing, or working in the visual arts (3).
Go for a run or bike ride down the Chicago Lakefront Trail
Exercise is one of the most effective and rewarding stress-combating strategies recommended to us by modern research. Going for a run down Lake Shore Drive will not only relax your mind and allow you to take in the beauty of the lake, but you’ll get a great endorphin rush and a boost in your mood afterwards. According to the Mayo Clinic (one of the world’s most reliable health care organizations), exercise is like meditation in motion (4). You might find that as you begin to focus on completing your run, your mind has already started to forget about your daily worries. Not only will you get a great sense of accomplishment after finishing your workout, but you’ll also feel ready to take on that menacing midterm paper you’ve been dreading.