10 Ways to De-Stress This Semester

A semester is like a year to most students in the sense that we begin the semester with goals and plans on how we can be the best students. Semester plans usually include “attending every lecture and tutorial”, “going to consultations” and, “submitting work on time”, to name but a few. When the first week of lectures begins for the semester, students find themselves scraping together every ounce of positivity they can find in order to begin the semester on the right footing and hope to still finish it with a bang. Unfortunately, that level of consistency is rarely achieved by most of us because school comes with a lot of stress that can leave one demotivated and drained. In those instances, it becomes important to have ways to de-stress because a semester can be quite long and without coping strategies, one’s emotional and mental wellbeing are put at risk. In an attempt to guard against this, here are the top ten ways that I feel can help with de-stressing this semester:

1.    Breathe

Breathing exercises are often taken for granted when people think about de-stressing techniques. However, deep breathing is the cornerstone of relaxation. Taking out a few minutes in a day in a comfortable space for deep, steady breaths can do a lot to elevate your mood and get your stress levels in check.

2.    Physical Exercise

Exercise is a technique that is known for stimulating the release of endorphins (hormones that trigger positive bodily feelings). For this reason, exercise has the ability to alleviate stress, symptoms of depression and many cases of mental illness. The exercise does not have to be gruelling, it can be light such as a walk.

3.    Get into a routine

This is a challenge for many students (if not, at least for me). A lack of order in our day-to-day routine can be a source of stress, anxiety and a great deal of discomfort if left unchecked. Attempting by all means to establish a routine, whether daily or weekly, can help build and maximise productivity and wellbeing, thus working against the stress that might hinder one’s success.

4.    Go hiking

The advantage of being a student at UCT is that you have one of the Seven Wonders of the world a breath away - Table Mountain. The mountain, inclusive of Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak, is a great site for going on hikes. Hiking relieves stress through its aerobics and cardiovascular exercise components. In addition, being outside in nature has restorative and stress-relieving powers.

5.    Keep a journal

Journaling helps to clarify your thoughts and feelings. In addition, writing removes mental blocks and it allows you to use all your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world as whole.

6.    Talk to a friend/someone

It is important to talk about problems that stress you out to someone you have a good relationship with. This can be a friend, a partner, or loved ones. When you are under stress, a reassuring voice from a loved one can put things into perspective.

7.    Eat right

A proper diet and stress levels are closely related. When we are going through a stressful period we tend to resort to sugary and fatty food. While these types of foods alleviate short-term psychological stress, they can cause long term physical stress to your brain. Fruits, vegetables and fish as well as foods with high levels of fatty acids have shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.

8.    Sleep better

As a student, it is challenging to get at most eight hours of sleep. However, lack of sleep is also a key cause of elevated stress levels. Try by all means to make sure you get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night. 

9.    Watch Idols wooden mic auditions

Sometimes thinking about things that have nothing to do with you, especially if they make you laugh, can do a lot for your mood. Idols wooden mic auditions are a great source of enjoyment. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins which promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

10.  Volunteer for an outreach

Apart from being able to put an outreach programme you have volunteered for in your CV, volunteering can help reduce stress because giving to others has benefits in the sense that it can help protect your mental health. In addition, the social interaction helps one develop emotional stability especially if the volunteering is done on a consistent basis (SHAWCO is currently looking for volunteers for second semester).

Stress is a part of our lives and unfortunately it cannot be avoided. However, that does not mean that it should be ignored. The good news is that stress can be managed and with some patience and strategy, it can even be reduced.