How many of you have trouble falling asleep? I know I do! When exam time rolls around the corner I seem to think of nothing but that. Not to mention, the 10 billion things I have to do before the end of my week! Sure, it’s normal to feel stressed around these times, but is it normal to experience stress and anxiety more often than that?
Let’s briefly look at the science. Research from the American Psychological Association has found that some people may experience chronic stress (defined as constant stress that persists over an extended period of time and impacts our psychological and physical well-being), with sleep disturbance as one of the most common symptoms.
To date, an average of 7 out of 10 adults in the US have difficulty sleeping (Stress and Anxiety Disorders Association of America). Women are more likely to experience stress-induced sleep problems than men and often feel not well-rested after sleep. They also tend to have more trouble sleeping and more difficulty staying asleep at night. These results are not surprising given the nature of our busy and fast-paced lifestyle today – to get more things done in less time. But if you feel stress is taking over your life, perhaps it’s time to visit your physician (just to be sure it’s not chronic stress). Yet, in many cases, we can manage our stress by proactively re-framing our perspective and knowing when to call the shots.
I know what you’re thinking. You don’t think you deserve the time off from work or school…but know what’s even worse? Feeling burnt out.
Here are a few unconventional and creative tips to get you started (see my list of ideas below). Believe me, if you plan 5-10 minutes each day and spend that time doing you truly like, you will not only feel happier, but more refreshed, recharged and ready to take on the next task you set out to do!
I personally engage in meditative-relaxation for 10-15 minutes each day and it makes a huge difference. If you’re into this kind of thing, YouTube is a great (FREE) resource with plenty of guided meditative-relaxation tutorials you can try. (Here is a guided mediation video you can start with)
Try these other stress-reducing ideas:
- Join an improv or drama club (laughing is great medicine!)
- Sing in the shower (who cares, nobody is watching!…and if they are, have them enjoy the show!)
- Take up art classes (e.g. fine arts, pottery, dance, hip-hop, creative writing, glass-making)
- Drink to your happiness (yes, beer and that good stuff in moderate amounts! We all know a bit of red is also good for your heart health too! CHEERS TO THAT!)
- Get your morning cuppa (caffeine from coffee or tea in moderate amounts have been shown to reduce stress and improve alertness. But you knew the last point already, I’m sure. Fine, one more for the books – caffeine may also help to reduce your risk for depression!)
- Learn a new language (or brush up on one you already know) – It doesn’t hurt to be bilingual or multilingual! This also makes world-traveling easier.
- Volunteer – Giving time to your local or international community is a great way to reconnect with people, network and socialize…not to mention, feel good!
- Attend a circus school/ workshop – Not that I’m asking you to quit school and join a circus, but acrobatics can be lots of fun! The Aerial Arts of Rochester is one of the many places you can check out!
- Try to break a World Record – Here’s something to aim for! Guinness probably has one of the most interesting listings of world records to date. I’m sure you can figure something out with your roomies, right?
- Create your own contest – Set-up a fun contest with your friends, coworkers, classmates or family members with an attainable healthy goal that everyone agrees to (e.g. reaching 10,000 steps per day, waking up on time, or doing all the laundry by 3 pm on Sundays, etc.). Every party can chip in $5 and add it to the winner’s pot. Not only will you get your chores done or maintain healthy habits, but you can also add a dose of good competition…and it would be a bonus if you won, right?
- Chamomile and lavender – These herbal teas and, or scents have been shown to help reduce stress and calm you down. If you ever feel like you need to shake off your anxiety, this may do just the trick.
- Light therapy – SAD (aka. Seasonal Affective Disorder) is actually an occurrence in some people who get depression from seasonal changes. Light therapy has been found to work on some individuals. If you ever feel slightly under the weather, try taking in some sunshine! If you can’t, paint your room or redecorate your house with bright objects…even wearing bright colors can sometimes lift your mood!
- Google Calendar or Agenda – Really?! Yes, really. Space out your workload (and do it realistically) so you don’t pile on too much for one day. Add in “fun” and “relaxing” slots so you can give yourself some mental and physical balance. I know this is not THAT creative, but you know I’m right on this.
- Knowing your limits – Sometimes it’s a matter of being able to say NO and putting a limit to how much you should do each day. You know yourself best and if you feel overwhelmed, try to slow down. Stop, think and re-plan. Communicating your schedule and negotiating a workable plan with your professors or your boss at work could make the biggest difference. In many cases, if you give people enough heads-up and with good reason why something should be postponed/ rescheduled, they can usually accommodate you.
I hope these suggestions were helpful as you finish off the last half of your Spring term! How do you de-stress? Let us know in the comments section below! Carpe diem! 🙂