Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Little Ways To Fight Stress

As a college student/writer/frat brother/treasurer/historian I’m always doing a balancing act.  I balance my class work with my fun work, and it can get pretty stressful.  I don’t have time for long spa days and massages, so I have to find little ways to fight my stress. 

1. Manicure
2. Long hot shower
3. Art
4. Lists
5. Early bedtime (when I can)
6. Journal
7. Reading


I’ve found that when I have a fresh manicure I feel like I can take on the world.  I always give myself a fresh manicure the night before classes start, and I’m going to make it a goal to carve out half an hour on Sunday nights to give myself a manicure.  Feeling like you can take on the world is way better than feeling like you’ve taken Atlas’ burden wildly unprepared.  I know that second feeling all too well.  So ladies, find yourselves half an hour, remove that chipped polish from last month with strengthening remover (better for your nails), clip and file them, then buff if you can.  Find a polish color you love (I love pastels, neutrals, metallics, and bright pops of purple or pink).  Layer it on slowly, taking the time to make each nail as perfect as you can.  A good manicure should not feel rushed.  Let the first coat dry completely before putting on a second coat, then top coat.  I use Confetti “Glass Slipper” top coat.  When you’re finished with both hands, let them dry thoroughly or else you’ll wind up with streaks or dents.  This is not something to rush through to get to the next task, so try to make sure your manicure time isn’t up against something that desperately needs doing.  Do it before or after dinner, before or immediately after a shower, when you’ve got a little extra free time before bed.  Put on an episode of something fun (try Lost Girl or Felicity), get yourself a big glass of water (great for stress levels) and just focus on this one thing.

Long Hot Shower
You know in high school when you thought getting into college would be the most stressful thing ever?  And mom told you to go take a hot shower and let the water run on your shoulders?  Yeah, in this case Mama knew best.  Showers are great for relaxing your muscles, but also for giving you a space to think.  You can’t actually do anything while in the shower, so you’re forced to just think through what you need to do and what you can realistically do.  I take the time that I’m in the shower to think about my next tasks for my goals, new posts to write, new angles on the stories I’m working on, and where I want to go with my life.  Take some deep breaths of the hot air and steam, let the water relax your body, and let your mind work its own knots out. 

I‘m not an artist.  I can’t draw worth a penny and I can’t sculpt either.  But it’s fun and it’s cathartic.  When I’m really stressed out, I take out my sketch pad and a pencil, and just draw.  No plans, no tasks, just draw whatever comes to mind.  Sometimes it’s doodles, sometimes it’s characters, sometimes it’s landscapes, but it’s always helpful.  You could also do photoshop art, take pictures, get some clay and make something. Whatever makes you feel destressed.  Creating something that’s not written is a huge difference for a writer.  It’s a different medium, which stretches and massages your creative muscles.  I also like to design stationery and computer backgrounds. 

(My real to do list from the first day of classes, already longer than the writing pad)
When everything you have to do seems insurmountable and enormous, try writing it down in a list.  That is of course assuming you don’t already do that.  But if you do, break the list down.  Three big scary tasks are more manageable if you break them down into their component tasks.  Need to finish a project for class?  List off exactly what you need to do for it.  Want to write a short story?  Make an outline.  Want to redecorate your room?  List every area you’ll have to do. 

Early Bedtime
Granted, this is not something that can be done all that often.  However, if you have the chance to go to bed early, rather than spending hours perusing useless websites, take it.  Sleep reboots your body and allows growth and healing.  Sleep also keeps you from getting loopy, and a good night’s rest will make you more productive. 

I know, more writing.  But a journal is a different kind of writing than creative writing.  In creative writing you create something from nothing.  You’re constantly pulling from your own imagination and have to keep track of various plotlines within the story as well as keeping your characters in character.  With writing in a journal you’re taking from yourself, but from a different place in yourself.  When you write in a journal you write about all the things you have to go through.  You can write the bad things, the good things, and the in-between things down.  It’s cathartic, and it helps release all of the stress by putting it down on the page rather than in your head.  When you have a story idea in your head you bounce it out onto paper, the same concept applies to taking stress and bouncing it out into a journal. 

I’m not talking about reading books, although that can help as well.  I’m talking about reading blog posts or magazines that focus on positivity and inspiration.  Reading a post about living in a positive way can make you feel better as surely as stretching will relieve your muscles.  Try something like Sweet Lemon Magazine or Yes and Yes or Gala Darling.  You can find through these more links to other positive posts that will prepare you for your day and make you feel better.  These posts also help you shoulder the stress.  I also subscribe to Prep Talk every week from Carly Heitlinger. 

Stress eats away at us all, so we need to mitigate it.  Today’s college students are trying to do everything, be everything, and not only do it, but do it better than anyone before us ever has.  We’re trying to be the best students, the best employees, the best friends, the best student leaders.  We can’t always be the best at everything, and trying to leaves us feeling run down and achy.  So before you reach for a bottle to deal with stress, try these tips, jumping jacks, water, or a deep breath of fresh air.  Deal with stress in a healthy way, and you can be even better.

Stay Tuned.

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