It’s that time of the year, when exams are front and centre—and many of you are feeling the stress.
But your relationship with stress doesn’t have to be all bad. Stress can be a healthy motivator when you let it become a positive force rather than an overpowering one, just as diamonds are made under controlled pressure.
If you pinpoint the source of your stress and break it down into manageable chunks, it can become easier to handle. For example, writing 500 words a day makes a 10-page final paper a lot less daunting.
But for those of you feeling a little too overwhelmed right now to even consider what's stressing you out, here are some quick things you can do that can help:
De-stress in 5 minutes or less
Take a breather. Step away from all your priorities, if just for a moment—you’re only human.
Take a deep breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Short shallow breaths can actually heighten your feelings of anxiety.
Here are 2 simple (and satisfying) gifs you can follow along with as you take a few minutes to breathe deeply:
Try Nadi Shodhana or "Alternate Nostril Breathing"
Hold your right thumb over the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril.
At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril.
Repeat for several rounds. This breathing pattern helps to both calm the mind and sharpen your focus.
Or breathe along with this short and soothing video:
Find your calm
Follow the paintbrush stroke with your eyes without moving your head.
This effect forces you to use EDMR, a therapeutic technique used to calm moments of anxiety and panic.
Have some more time?
Do you have 10 minutes to spare? An intentional (and guilt-free) break from your studies can boost your productivity in the long run.
Practice self-love. Not all of us have the time or budget for a Swedish massage (not that we're likely to get one anyways right now), but here’s the next best thing you can enjoy without having to leave your home:
Gain a new perspective
Take a moment to journal. Write down all your thoughts or worries—sometimes seeing your looming stresses written down makes them easier to tackle. Or shift your focus by writing down something you’re looking forward to or grateful for.
Take a step back. Realize how far you’ve come and how much further you can go—and be proud of your efforts so far. Remember, you are not defined by your grades!
Habits that can help flatten your stress levels
There isn't a magic formula that will prevent stress once and for all, but incorporating the following tips into your daily routine can help:
Social media can be overwhelming—it’s no wonder that smartphones are linked to increased stress.
Take some time each day to disconnect from technology. Step away from your screen for a few minutes and focus on something in the distance, or turn your phone off for a period of undistracted studying or reading.
Sometimes a cluttered room or study space can impact your productivity and headspace. A clean environment can help clear your mind.
The same goes for your routine. Keep a planner and write down everything that needs to be done that day or week. Breaking down your to-do list into both bite-sized tasks and long-term goals can help curb your procrastination and sense of feeling overwhelmed.
Make life for future you easier. Little things like making your lunch the night before or preparing what to wear (because changing out of your PJs before you study is a good idea!) can help prevent the unnecessary stress of last-minute scrambling.
Take care of your body
We all know the drill: drink plenty of water, sleep 7 to 9 hours a night, eat a balanced diet, and exercise—it’s all great in theory but more difficult in practice.
But there are ways to make taking care of yourself less of a chore:
- Incorporate exercise into your busy routine like combining movement with studying.
- Check out these active tips to re-energize without leaving your study spot.
- Try some easy meal-prep recipes that will set you up for the week ahead—because our bodies aren’t meant to survive off of instant ramen for weeks on end.
Take advantage of online resources that can help you build better habits
There are lots of resources at your fingertips that can support you during this time. Here are just a few:
- Try meditating with Headspace or take charge of your anxiety with MindShift. For more apps that can help you manage stress, check out this list.
- Access the Wellness Centre: Online—a course offered via Canvas—for lots of tips and resources to support your health and wellbeing.
- Explore the Get Active at Home section of the UBC Recreation website, where you can participate in free virtual fitness classes, get tips for studying effectively from home, and more!
I tell myself that these periods of stress aren’t forever, and I hope the same mindset can help you, too.
Remember to do one thing a day that makes you happy, and take care of yourself during this exam season!