Image courtesy of Flickr. Photo by McBeth.
A typical Tuesday afternoon can find University of Oregon students strolling across campus, chatting casually with their friends, perhaps on their way to class or to satisfy their sweet tooth with Yogurt Extreme. But today, you would more likely find empty shells of former students, running frantically to the library, clutching their Starbucks for dear life, trying to maintain what little composure they have left in their body. This can only mean one thing: it is Dead Week.
Three times a year, college students across America are crippled by what can only be described as blind panic – the result of an entire term’s work culminating in seven days of hell. But there is no need to fear: this can all be managed through some simple ways to relieve stress.
Now, I’m not talking about the typical stress-relievers you find in a Google search – taking a deep breath and counting to ten only gets you ten seconds closer to punching a whole in the wall. I am talking about actual activities that students find helpful in retaining a sense of calm amidst the chaos.
After invasively asking a multitude of wigged-out collegiates, here is a list I have comprised of ways to tame the stress monster:
Clean Your Space
Cluttered desk, cluttered mind. Being surrounded by stacks paper, piles of unwashed and over-worn clothes, and of course that bag from Taco Bell that’s been sitting there for three days, will only add to your anxiety. Take twenty minutes out of your day to organize your space. Not only will you get the satisfaction of completing a task, but chances are you will work much more efficiently with a little bit order.
In the immortal words of Elle Woods, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” So before you shoot your roommate, professor, or that random dude walking by, try hitting the gym first. Getting some exercise will produce endorphins that give you a natural high, virtually melting all of your stress away. Plus, you get the added bonus of feeling like you accomplished something, even if your schoolwork is falling apart. Plug in the most catchy,
upbeat song you know (‘Call Me Maybe,’ anyone?), and you’ll be in high spirits in no time.
After spending hours on end in a dimly lit room hunched over a desk, getting out in nature for a while can be a welcome break (especially if you live in a ten by eight rectangle like I do). Being outside can be quite spiritual, creating a natural sense of calm. Further, the fresh air well help clear your thoughts and provide you with new energy. Grab your bike, go on a walk, or even just sit on a bench, just get outside. But don’t forget your Claritin in the springtime.
Put on “Happy Clothes”
Everyone owns that one piece of clothing that has magic powers. For some reason, whenever you put it on you are brimming with confidence and nothing can keep your mood down. My roommate last year, for example, had a purple hat with a fanny pack on the front that she dubbed “The Happy Hat.” I have a pair of bright blue socks with penguins on them (nothing says “winner” like penguins, right?). Regardless of the type of clothing, when you start to feel stressed, put it on. In fact, during Dead Week it might be smart to carry it in your backpack at all times. I’m sure nobody will judge you…at the very least, not the kid wearing penguin socks.
This one might seem self-evident, but surprisingly, very few students go about it in the right way. In moments of stress, it seems the most practical to think about nothing but the task at hand. However, when the anxiety begins to settle in, you often times lose focus, therefore reducing productivity and increasing the stress you were trying to avoid in the first place. The simple solution is to just take time to mentally recuperate. Watch a funny movie. Read a book. Turn up some classical tunes. Look up YouTube videos of ridiculously cute babies. It doesn’t matter. Do whatever you can to distract yourself for the time being, and return to a mental state of calm. This will allow you to focus and be productive when
you are ready to return to the task at hand.
This is perhaps one of the most common ways to divert stress. How can you be upset when all you can think about is the bittersweet heaven that comes in the form of a Ghiradelli chocolate bar? How can anxiety get you down when your mouth is filled greasy goodness of a freshly ordered pizza? There are actually a few foods scientifically proven to reduce stress: oranges, almonds, and avocados are packed with vitamins and nutrients that give your body a natural high without the crash you often get from sugar. But if you ask me, a giant piece of garlic bread, washed down with a Diet Coke and some gummy bears, is perfectly fine.
According to a recent study, physical contact with either a pet or another human is actually proven to reduce stress. If you aren’t lucky enough to have access to a furry little companion (and can’t borrow one from a friend), it is perfectly acceptable to force your best friend/partner/roommate/fellow stressed-out stranger to cuddle with you. Not only will you get the physical affect of feeling warm and safe, you will have the emotional support of someone who knows exactly what you are going through.
Scream It Out
Last but not least, there is the good, old-fashioned rant. Nothing releases stress like screaming your frustrations out to the universe at the top of your lungs. As you bellow each of your grievances, you can almost feel them leave your body. By the time you’re done, your stresses won’t seem like such a big deal. Some might even vanish completely. But, if all that fails…
Call Mom. She’ll Fix It.