As classes start and your planner begins to fill up with due dates and exams, we remain (mostly) quarantined for online classes. Weren’t we supposed to be back on campus, studying at Starbucks, and going for a walk into town with a group of friends when we needed a break? Well, reality states we still reside in a pandemic, and remaining socially-distanced, if not completely quarantined remains the best option to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the start of a semester usually summons enough panic on its own, but having to navigate through an online world of communication with classmates and professors makes it extra difficult. For this reason, I put together a list of activities that help me decompress whenever I feel stressed or anxious. This is important for everyone to do, especially in times like these!
- Do a Puzzle
I find puzzles of the most therapeutic activities for me. Puzzles, whether a jigsaw or Sudoku, always distract me from whatever stress hangs over my head, ready to attack. They let your mind get whisked away from intrusive, anxious thoughts, instead of gathering all of your attention to complete a task. As a plus, any kind of puzzle is a great brain workout. Whenever I spend time on one, I notice my head gets clearer afterward, not to mention how satisfying it feels to click in that one missing piece. Watching the whole thing come together, in the end, is even more of a reward. Accomplishing something, even something as simple as snapping puzzle pieces together, can always put someone in a better mood.
- Try Painting
Similar to doing a puzzle, painting, or doing art of any kind, takes your mind off any negativity in your life by allowing your mind to run free and release your inner thoughts and feelings. Painting is the perfect creative hobby to take up, especially when anxiety starts to creep in. There is even a form of therapy called Art Therapy which possesses many cognitive benefits. Painting or drawing out your emotions is quite parallel to talking about them as it purges your thoughts from your head and brings them into a more physical form, leaving you feeling more at peace with and distanced from them. The great thing here is that you do not need to be a professional to have fun with this one – part of the fun is not knowing what you are doing half of the time and seeing what you can make of it. Just let your hands go free and see what you come up with! Having a creative outlet, as I have discovered through personal experience, is one of the best ways to combat anxiety.
- Go for a Walk
While mental activities like puzzles or art can significantly improve one’s mood, physical activity releases endorphins and shows similar results. Implementing exercise into your daily routine can boost your mood every day as well as the combined benefits towards your health, both mental and physical, in the long run. Going for a walk once in a while can help fight against your anxiety. These days when are all locked up inside with our eyes chained to computer screens for online classes, it is vital to make sure you get enough time outside to breathe in some fresh air and get your blood flowing. I always make sure to completely unplug when I go on a walk through town by turning my phone to silent, not even listening to music, to take in my surroundings. This ensures that my mind is not focused on anything else, like answering texts, scrolling on Instagram, or checking my e-mail. This way I can relax and enjoy the physical world around me. Going for a walk never fails to hit the reset button for me, relieving me of any stress I was holding on to.
- Listen to Music
Music, when it’s the style you enjoy, can heal your mind and soul. Some people, like myself, enjoy a light jazzy, or alternative sound. I find that when I am feeling anxious this kind of sound can transport me to a different universe; one that is calm, ethereal, and most importantly, located far away from Planet Anxiety. For this effect, I usually scroll through my Spotify to find The 1975, LANY, or MUNA, as they never fail to carry me into a trance of tranquility. Other people may rely on old school rap for meaningful lyrics to empower them, or pop to bring them back to a more upbeat mood, or maybe a bit of rock to get amped up to and let out all those stressful feelings. Whatever style it is, find something you connect to that makes all of those negative feelings disintegrate from your body. There have been numerous occasions where I felt like I was at rock bottom, yet all I needed was a few songs to pull me right back to the surface.
- Talk about it!
While most suggestions included distractions from stress and anxiety, this one faces it head-on. Distractions serve as great for short-term relief, but to find a more long-term solution, talking about your stress or anxiety is critical. If you do not feel comfortable enough doing this, writing down how you feel can also help. Anxious thoughts can be either irrational or rational. For irrational thoughts, it can help to discuss them or journal to yourself about them. This way, you can dispute them and come to the realization of how illogical your irrational thoughts are. On the other hand, for more rational worries, you can brainstorm with someone about how to work through them and make a change, possibly even figure out a concrete step by step plan for change.
Keeping your emotions isolated inside of you is never good. If you can find a way to let them out, whether through talking, listening to music, working out, or something else, I encourage you to do so for the therapeutic benefits.