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Calm Your Mind: 10 Ways to Cope With Stress

Pre-exam jitters are too real this time of the semester. 

I don’t know about y’all, but around the beginning of November, just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving break, my workload seems to suddenly go into overdrive. With this sharp increase in work, I tend to find myself in a constant state of stress and anxiety that really doesn’t dissolve until final exams are over. However, this is an unsustainable and, frankly, super unpleasant way to go about your life for almost a month. That’s why, along the way, I’ve found some practices that can easily be incorporated into my everyday life to help reduce the stress, even just a little bit. Without further ado, here are my top ten ways to cope with stress. 

  1. Take Deep Breaths

I know it sounds kind of silly, but hear me out. When we’re anxious, we tend to forget to breathe deeply, so it’s good to take a moment, close our eyes, and take some deep breaths to calm ourselves down. I find that when I just stop what I’m doing and take a minute to focus on my breath and how it feels in my body, I feel much more relaxed and at ease. 

  1. Spend Time with Friends

It’s easy to get so caught up in stress and studying that we forget to make time for ourselves or for hanging out with friends. When that’s the case, make plans to see your friends! It’s so simple to just grab a coffee and/or go for a walk with a friend to take your mind off of everything else going on. Whether you want to talk out your stress or just focus on something other than schoolwork is up to you, but having a friend by your side during a stressful period is never a bad idea. 

  1. Exercise

It’s well known that exercise releases endorphins, a.k.a. the “happiness hormone”, and we can use this to our advantage. While exercise not only improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone, it’s also a great break from studying AND one that will leave you feeling better than when you started! How you choose to move your body is totally up to you, whether that’s weight lifting, taking a pilates class, or going for a run, but any movement is good movement. For my super hard-core workers who don’t want (or have the time) to take a 30-60 minute break from work, one thing I sometimes do is to watch videos on difficult concepts while on the elliptical, bike, or StairMaster. This way, you can still be productive while getting a workout in!

  1. Meditate

The practice of meditation has been around for a long time, but with the (moderately) recent surge in attention towards mental wellbeing, the meditation industry has taken off. And with good reason—studies show that meditation relieves stress, improves concentration, and helps sleep. While beginning the art of meditation may seem intimidating at first – how the heck can your mind be totally clear? – apps like Headspace and Calm make it simple and accessible for all. Even taking just five minutes out of your day to meditate can have a huge impact on your mental health. 

  1. Get Outside

Something about this weather just makes me want to get outside and spend time in nature. Even if that means just going for a walk around campus or going on a run through the Reynolda trails, try and get some Vitamin D from the sun every day if you can. At home, one of my favorite things to do is to take my dogs on a hike through the trails, and it always helps clear my mind and take my focus off of everything else I need to get done—simply put, getting out into nature helps me to concentrate on the present, rather than all my future tasks. 

  1. Take a Nap

This might be everyone’s favorite method of releasing stress, and why wouldn’t it be? However, all too often, I wake up feeling groggier than before because I slept for too long, and I’m sure some of you can relate. To combat this, I like to set an alarm for 30-45 minutes in the future to ensure that I don’t oversleep. Additionally, we get much more anxious and our emotions feel heightened when we’re sleep-deprived, so even just a short nap can help get you through that last push of work. Obviously, the long-term solution here is to get more sleep at night, but that’s not always possible with classes and extracurricular activities, so a nap can be a great short-term solution for the lack of sleep. 

  1. Practice Gratitude

When we’re stressed and super busy, it can be easy to lose track of and take for granted all of the good things in our lives. The exercise of just writing down five to ten things we’re grateful for can help shift our perspectives away from negative thoughts towards positive ones, reminding us of how much we have to appreciate. This can be literally anything from having a place to sleep to having a coffeemaker in our dorm room, but what’s important is that taking the time to think of all the things we’re grateful for helps to distract us from the negative stress of work and to fill our minds with feelings of gratitude. 

  1. Do Yoga

I know, I know. I already mentioned exercise, and yes, technically yoga does fall under the category of exercise, but hear me out. Similar to meditation and deep breathing, practicing yoga combines stretching out tight muscles with rhythmic breathing. Personally, after a day of sitting at my desk studying, I find that my legs can get sore and stiff, and stretching always helps me out. Combine a stretching routine with breathing exercises that match your movements, and you’ve got a yoga flow. There are hundreds of thousands of yoga routines on YouTube (I personally recommend Sjana Elise and Yoga with Adriene) for everyone, whether you’re just beginning to practice yoga or are a seasoned yogi. 

  1. Listen to Music

I honestly believe that there is music for every single mood. And that includes “stressed.” When I’m feeling stressed, putting on music can transform my mood. This can range from blasting music in my earbuds and dancing it out to lying down in bed, closing my eyes, and listening to lofi. But these are just examples—the best music for when you’re stressed ranges from person to person, and the thing that matters most is that it helps elevate your mood or helps you refocus. Music can also accompany other stress-relieving activities, like yoga or exercise, just to provide a background soundtrack to put your mind at ease. 

  1. Make a To-Do List

Last but not least, one of the things I find MOST helpful when I’m stressed is making a to-do list on a sticky note or in my planner. I like to prioritize them by how urgent they are and how long they will take, with the first task being the most difficult and/or time-consuming and the last task being the easiest/fastest. This helps me visualize all the tasks I need to complete that day in order of importance and saves time when deciding what task to complete next. It also helps relieve stress in the sense that an overwhelming task can be simplified into a few short words on paper, making it seem much more manageable than it previously felt. 

Emory Lewis

Wake Forest '25

Hey! I'm Emory, and I'm a freshman at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, although I'm originally from Annapolis, Maryland. I'm planning to major in Biology on a pre-med track, and in my free time, you can find me at the gym, re-watching Grey's Anatomy, or playing with my dogs. Hope y'all enjoy!
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