Stress-less Hobbies for Back to College

While midterms and finals are often thought to be the prime college “stress seasons,” the beginning of a semester can also inflict negative feelings of stress, burnout, and pressure upon even the most seasoned academic. To avoid feeling overwhelmed during your first weeks of school, try to incorporate some of these stress-less hobbies, rituals, and habits into your daily routine to add positivity and relaxation to your busy life. 

1. Find familiarity (when so much seems unfamiliar!) 

We all hear that college is the perfect time for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things— and while this is true, it doesn’t mean you have to branch out all the time. Whether you’re a first year or a grad student, it’s okay to take a step back from the exciting uncertainty of a new year and seek solace in something you know and like. Take a moment to sip the Starbucks drink you had all the time back home, watch old Parks and Recreation episodes on your laptop, or rent out a buttery and teach your new college friends your favorite recipe from home. Taking a break with the things you’re familiar with isn’t “basic,” its refreshing.  

2. Take a walk in a New Haven natural paradise

When you’re running to class or sitting in the library for hours, it can feel like the outside world has been engulfed by the Collegiate Gothic concrete bubble of Yale University. Fortunately, this is simply not true! New Haven is a vibrant city, but it’s not always obvious that New Haven is home to some stunning pockets of nature if you take a look around. Seek some of that sweet, sweet oxygen and walk up to the Forestry School where the wind blowing through pine trees will transport you to a calm woodland meadow in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains (or wherever your mind takes you). Take a shortcut to or from your classroom on the Farmington Canal Trail, where fall colors and lush greenery make for the perfect backdrop for an early autumn stroll. Life at school is fast paced, but nature can be nice and slow.

3. Find your New Haven food-topia

Let’s admit it— Yale Dining is great, but we all reach that point in the semester when it’s a Friday night and dining hall food just doesn’t speak to you. In the case of some serious Dining Hall Burnout, it’s a good idea to have a back-pocket list of favorite food spots in New Haven that are A.) delicious, B.) affordable, and C.) convenient. Spend some time compiling a list of restaurants you want to try this year. Once you have some names down, consider treating yourself once a month to a new dining experience. Venture to some of my favorite spots in New Haven such as the food trucks on Science Hill, the to-go meals in Elm City Market, and Mamoun’s Falafel on Howe Street. A tip: Always try to use your dinner swipe (even if eating out) to grab some fruit or dessert for later.

4. Come on, get moving (or alternatively, stop moving)

While classes are effective at challenging your mind, it’s important to keep your body healthy and happy during the stressful first few weeks of school. One way to fit (pun intended) physical fitness into your hectic schedule is to view your workout as a relaxation technique rather than a chore. Stretching and yoga can help you wind down before sleep or get your heart pumping for the day. Sign up for the Yogis at Yale email panlist to join some of your fellow Yalies in your new or continued practice! If group workouts aren’t your thing, YouTube is home to thousands of stretching and yoga videos that you can follow in your own room— no mat required. For example, I did my vinyasas on a purple towel my first year!

5. Pour your heart out in a handwritten letter (or perhaps just send a little note)

For most of us, the transition to college is bittersweet. If you’re feeling homesick or nostalgic, believe me: your friends and family miss you just as much as you miss them. Although texts and FaceTime calls are one of the 21st century’s greatest gifts to college students and doting loved ones, there is arguably nothing better than sending or receiving a good old-fashioned handwritten letter. If you enjoy receiving notes or care packages from home, imagine how great others would feel if they opened the mailbox and found a little something from you! Writing a note is free and stamps are readily available at the Yale Post Office, so take a moment for yourself by thinking of the people who love you. It’s been said a thousand times— love is all you need, folks! 

6. Take the night off (because relaxing is definitely a hobby)

During the first weeks of my first year, I was bewildered by all the fascinating events that took place between 10:30 PM and 2:00 AM. Who knew that the best a cappella jams, dance showcases, club open houses, and even important academic meetings would fill my late evenings with an endless flow of opportunity? These events are fun, but being out and about every night can become a lot especially when classes begin. You don’t have to go to that improv show if you don’t want to. You don’t have to make an appearance at Woads if you’re not feeling it, even though you’ve heard the experience is iconic. You instead might want to sit down with the 50% off Papa John’s pizza you ordered via Snackpass and then go to sleep. That’s fine. Nobody is going to think you’re not fun if you take the night off, but they probably are going to be jealous of you and your pizza. 

College should still feel like the real world. We have all seen the movies where students are up until 3:00 am studying one night and up until 3:00 am partying the next. We need to take breaks so that we can enjoy all aspects of our lives. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. It will make you more productive, less stressed, and all around happier in the long run.