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With finals right around the corner, the projects, essays, and hours of recorded lectures that I have been putting off for weeks seem to be piling up so high that the mere thought of opening my laptop is overwhelming. My mind becomes so preoccupied with what I have yet to do that I find myself staring at my screen unsure of where to even start. Although college is no doubt stressful, these three practices have been the key to reducing stress and improving my performance academically, physically, and mentally:

#1: Exercise

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When it feels like life is so busy you don’t have time to think, taking time to exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But starting my morning off with a run, walk, or even just 10 minutes of yoga has transformed the productivity of my day. Exercise reduces your stress-causing hormones like cortisol, while also producing endorphins, meaning that moving your body is the perfect way to relax. Especially when paired with time in nature or with friends, exercise is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress. Although forcing myself to wake up earlier to squeeze in an hour of exercise was not easy, it has quickly become one of the most important — and fun — parts of my day.

#2: Talk to friends or family

After hours of sitting at my desk, FaceTiming my mom or talking with my roommates is one of my favorite things to do. Venting about the stack of work you have to do or just talking about what you had for dinner last night can help you figure out what exactly is causing you stress, while also letting you take a break. Alternate perspectives can help you work through everything that is clouding your mind, and in my experience, conversations with my roommates never fail to leave me laughing and in a better mood.

#3: Go outside

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Whether it's 10 minutes on the porch or a couple of hours at the beach, taking time to just be outside almost immediately clears my mind. The fresh air, scenery, and buzz of the wildlife come together to create what I consider to be the most peaceful place to be. But even if you don’t feel the same connection to nature, there are proven health benefits to just being outside, such as improved mood, better heart health, and overall decreased anxiety and depression. As simple as a walk through the park might seem, it can strongly influence your mood.

Finding ways that help you be the most productive and relaxed during an inevitably stressful time is crucial to success, but it's also important to remember that there's no right or wrong way to eliminate stress: It’s about finding a method that works best for you.

Olivia Kulchin

UC Berkeley '24

Olivia is a freshman at UC Berkeley intending to major in society and environment. She is passionate about environmentalism and social justice issues.
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