Whether you’re burning the midnight oil to finish deadlines or running around like a headless chicken trying to get everything done, stress is something we have all had to deal with. As a final year undergraduate student, I’ve spent the past month juggling my dissertation, essays and exams and the job hunt so it’s safe to say life hasn’t exactly been the calmest. As much as we might like to fantasize about relaxing on a chaise lounge all day, the reality is that a bit of stress is a good thing. It can help motivate you to check off your to do list, but when stress turns into sleepless nights and tension headaches, something’s got to give. The most important thing to remember with stress is that we are all navigating it in different ways, and you have to give yourself a break. I say this having burst into tears in the middle of Boots two weeks ago. Mental health is not linear, so as a wise flatmate once said to me, don’t beat yourself up for having a bit of a wobble. That said, today I’m sharing 7 simple ways that help me destress with no self-help book frippery or instructions to ‘find yourself’ by jetting off to Thailand.
- STOP -Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred pounds (or dollars, or euros). In order to de-stress you first have to stop moving at a million miles an hour. Find somewhere comfortable, cozied up on your couch or sitting on a bench in the sun or even in your car. Somewhere away from other people, or any distracting stimuli. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and do absolutely nothing for five minutes. If you want more structure, I highly recommend the Headspace app.
- MUSIC -Go for a drive and turn the stereo up, sing off key in the shower, or dance around your kitchen to some tunes so infectious they can’t help but improve your mood and loosen up all the tense muscles from contorting yourself over your desk all day. I highly recommend River by Leon Bridges, Juice by Lizzo, Shotgun by George Ezra, Wannabe by the Spice Girls and anything by ABBA.
- LAVENDER- My essential oil of choice, the obsession has extended into hand lotions, shower gels, room sprays, those tiny sachets you stick in your pants/socks/pajamas drawer to make everything smell nice. When I need some on the go stress relief, I put a little lavender oil on my wrists, behind my ears and on my temples. Added bonus: you smell like a walking flower garden everywhere you go.
- TOUCH- Maybe it’s struggle cuddles with the house dog or cat, maybe book yourself a head, neck and shoulder massage, maybe make sad noises at your flatmate until they give you a hug or maybe just co-opt your significant other as a pillow. Most human beings need touch to feel connected and there’s no shame in it. Despite our collective social media habits, we aren’t in fact a society of androids. Not today West World.
- ESCAPE- When I’m at my most stressed, I need to escape from it all. This can mean a pizza and movie night with friends, or a trip to a museum, or trying out the hottest restaurant in town. I would actually recommend staying off Instagram for this one. As much as we like to escape by scrolling through our feeds, I find that when in the middle of a rough patch the only emotions you’re feeling by looking at X’s holiday is a) jealousy b) self-pity. Do something in the present that you can wholly enjoy with people you love.
- EAT- Hello stomach, is that you? When I’m in the thick of essay writing or job applications, I often hyper focus and accidentally mess up my eating schedule. I usually need at least two proper meals and a hearty snack if not three meals a day in order to be at my best. Very quickly a coffee at 1pm means you’re all of a sudden ravenous at five and inhaling that bag of crisps seems like a grand way to stave of impending starvation while dinner cooks. At least until the inevitable sluggishness hits. It’s definitely a work in progress for me, but I find that making lunch plans with a friend ahead of time or setting a reminder on my phone keeps me on track.
- SLEEP- This post was partly inspired by three nights of insomnia in a row and so last but not least: one of the most important things you can do to heal your body and mind from stress is to catch some zzzzzs. I am not a napper and so unless I’m strict about my schedule, I can very easily throw my circadian rhythms off. I have recently decided to stop working past 10pm unless absolutely necessary, as I know it keeps my mind too busy to relax. Scientific studies show that screens keep you awake because the blue light they release suppresses melatonin, which is the hormone in charge of your sleep cycle. (As I clearly just found out via Google). It also gives me a reason to make progress on the precarious stack of books in my To Read pile.
I hope this post is helpful and a source of inspiration to any of you lovelies feeling overwhelmed. Remember that everyone has different ways of dealing with stress, so long as you are coping in healthy manner, that’s all that matters.