12 Ways to Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety During the School Year
Whether you are waiting to hear back from your dream college, starting a new semester, or applying for scholarships, it’s easy to feel anxious. We spoke to psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Holes-Lewis from Modern Minds to hear her advice on managing feelings of anxiety and stress in your daily life.
Here are 12 tips from Dr. Holes-Lewis you can try when you’re feeling overwhelmed:
- Talk to a therapist
Seeking advice and talking to someone can help keep your mind healthy and give you the tools you need in stressful situations. It may be worth making an ongoing appointment with a licensed therapist to have these ongoing conversations.
- Take deep breaths
Sometimes the most effective coping mechanism is breathing. Stress hormones can make us feel like we have lost control of our breathing, so focusing on your breath can help you regain control. Try inhaling for five seconds, holding your breath for five seconds, and exhaling for five seconds. Repeat at least three times or until you begin to feel more relaxed.
- Get outside
Research suggests nature and sunshine can help lower stress levels, reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem, and more. Try watching a sunset, going to a park, walking barefoot, or simply sitting outside and noticing the smells, sounds, and sensations you experience to help ground and balance you. Walking outdoors can be one of the most therapeutic practices to balance your mind, body, and spirit.
- Get moving
Studies show that exercise helps produce endorphins which can help reduce stress while increasing relaxation and overall well-being. Something as simple as a brisk, 10-minute walk can help calm anxiety. If you have more time, consider running, biking, or playing a ball game with friends. In my clinical practice, it is clear that people who move regularly are more resilient to the effects of stress when they occur. Consider joining a sports team or exercise group to help get you moving on a consistent schedule.
- Make a list
Organizing your priorities can help calm your mind and keep you on track with priorities and deadlines.
- Get creative
Take 10 minutes to focus on something creative. Journaling, sketching, or dancing are just a few ideas to help you feel empowered and improve your resilience against stress and anxiety.
- Call a friend
Personal interactions and connections may help boost your mood and can help you process your feelings. Bonus points if they make you laugh.
- Grab a snack
When your body is low on energy, it’s easier to feel stressed or anxious. Grab a healthy snack (apples, carrots, or nuts are great options) to give your body and brain a nutritious boost. Try to avoid processed foods such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs, potato chips, sweetened cereals, etc., as these types of foods are associated with the risk of depression.
Sometimes, all you need is a drink break. Consider herbal teas or hot water with lemon to jazz up your hydration routine.
- Catch up on sleep
When you’re well-rested, things don’t feel as overwhelming. However, without sufficient sleep, we tend to struggle with problem-solving and other challenges we face throughout the day. Aim to get seven or more hours of sleep every night to help control your stress and anxiety during the day.
- Say your mantra
If you have a mantra, repeat it to yourself five times. Don’t have one? Try “I am smart. I am capable. I can do this.” Repeating positive affirmations daily can help reduce self-sabotaging or negative thoughts, which may be contributing to your stress and anxiety.
- Think happy thoughts
One of the most important things we can learn is that we control our own thoughts. Taking a few minutes to view your situation through a positive lens can help improve your mood and overall optimism. This quick exercise can reduce our perception of our stress or anxiety, making the situation feel more manageable.
Dr. Holes-Lewis said, “wellness comes from a balance of mind, body, and spirit. I work with my clients to optimize all areas of wellness with a focus on love and compassion for self and others. Rest, renewal and recharge; nutrition and hydration; movement and social connections are also important. I believe if we focus on enhancing all of these areas of wellness, our physical and emotional resilience will improve and allow us to live our best life.”
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