As little as 20 minutes of exercise a day can reduce stress, anxiety, and boost your mood. This can be as easy as getting off the TTC one stop early, briskly walking across campus to your next class, or taking a mental break from your studies by going for a short walk.
Students frequently report sleep disturbances associated with leaving their smartphones on throughout the night. They often feel pressure to be readily available, even for those 3am text messages. Make a habit of unplugging at night so that you can have a restful night’s sleep; fatigue will make it much more difficult for you to cope with stress during the day.
Mindfulness involves keeping your mind in the present moment, non-judgmentally, rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. There is usually a space between a stressful stimulus and our response to it. Mindfulness gives us more choice about how we respond to the stimulus, thereby reducing patterns of emotional reactivity. There are many Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses offered in Toronto.
Establish a Social Support System
Having a strong community of friends and/or family can significantly buffer the effects of stress. Research has shown that having supportive relationships is one of the strongest predictors of mental well-being. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed or down, reach out to someone.
Take a few minutes to watch a hilarious TV show or go out to a comedy show with friends. This will help to alleviate tension in your body and will trigger the release of mood-elevating endorphins. It can also be a temporary distraction from some of the more serious emotions or situations in your life.
Take frequent breaks
Taking time out for yourself will do wonders for your mood and concentration. It can also help you to feel less overwhelmed. Make a list of several pleasant and comforting activities that you can engage in on a regular basis. This can be as simple as making your favorite cup of tea ,having a warm bath, playing sports, or watching a show on Netflix.
Reframe your Thinking
A significant portion of stress stems from our perception of stressful events. For instance, if you fail an exam and then have the thought “I will never graduate, I will never be able to pursue my dreams” a significant stress response will be activated. On the other hand, if you engage in productive problem solving (e.g. “I will get extra help from the Learning Centre and go and speak to my professor in order to improve my grades”) and a positive outlook (e.g. I will work hard and do the best that I can"). You will likely feel more in control of your problems and perceive them in a more manageable light.
Give yourself a buffer
Aim to arrive 15 minutes early to all of your destinations. For instance, arriving a few minutes early for class or an exam will give you time to gather your thoughts, take a few breaths, and mentally prepare for the tasks ahead. It will also increase the likelihood that you arrive on time, since you will have a buffer for any unexpected delays during your travels. If you are always rushing and running late, you are much more likely to feel chronically stressed.
While we all know how to breathe, many of us do not know how to breathe correctly. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. Breathing deeply triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which activates the relaxation response. This results in a decrease in muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure. Watch a YouTube video on diaphragmatic breathing and try to practice this on a daily basis, especially when you are starting to feel stressed.