You would think that after months of endless, ever-present stress in quarantine, that we’d learn how to better handle stressful moments. Yet despite having survived 2020 so far, I still find myself thinking that an upcoming essay deadline is the grave, impending doom lurking in the distance. In those moments, these school stressors seem to consume my world. Those deadlines and those assignments cling to the very edges of all my thoughts. And in moments when I finally look up, I am bombarded with feelings of panic and sadness about the pandemic and our political turmoil.
All I ever hear is that we are living in “unprecedented times.” Yet, we still need to do all these assignments and write these essays? Indeed, we do. Despite these heavy times, I wholeheartedly believe in our resilience. I believe in those moments which rebuild our feelings of hope. I believe in those little pockets of joy that fill the darkened holes of our minds. And I believe that despite the constant stress of the world around us, that little moments of rest and recharging can fill us back up, even a little bit, to continue on — in our studies and in our lives.
Here are some acts which I think have been extremely valuable in stressful moments of exhaustion, emptiness and heaviness:
Stepping back and being proud of yourself — because there is much to be proud of and there is still much to celebrate. Maybe you actually put an outfit on today, maybe you took the long way to class or maybe you’ve kept up with your class reading. Congrats! I’m proud of you, too.
Spending time with friends and family — by this I do not mean get together with friends, talk about all of your upcoming assignments and try to see who is the most worthy of feeling stressed. I also do not mean get together, trash the election and then build and build on your mutual feelings of hopelessness for the future. I believe in the value of a rant here and there but would not recommend this as a topic of your destress friend hangout. Get together, talk about things that build you up and fill you with those warm friend-fuzzies and laugh together. Call your mom, call your grandparents, call that one cousin you haven’t talked to since Christmas. Check in, reminiscence if you want and spend time together.
Go on a walk — I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before, but I have never gone on a walk that was fruitless. Listen to your favorite songs or podcast, or don’t. Maybe just listen to the falling of leaves and take some time to look around. Actually look around. Find the most vibrant red leaf in the tree or notice that one stained glass window that glimmers when the light hits it. Find a little corner on campus that you’ve never seen before.
Make good food -— take the time to fuel yourself with good food. I’m a big fan of a nice, healthy dinner followed by a delicious dessert. Take some time to try a new recipe – whip it up in your apartment kitchen or maybe experiment with one of those something-in-a-cup microwave recipes in your dorm. Or maybe eat that one childhood snack that you haven’t had in awhile. (That never fails to bring me a little joy.) Put some love into your food and your body.
Get a little creative — take a small 30 minute study break and sketch a picture. Paint a bowl of fruit, make a macaroni/glitter/random art supply masterpiece, color, put together a collage. Be a kid for some time and then you can get back to the books.
Do a workout — yeah, yeah, I know. But, moving your body is so good for you and your mind. This doesn’t mean running a few miles and doing some bicep curls (unless that’s your thing). Find a dance workout on YouTube, do some stretches or yoga, find a pilates workout. Maybe play Just Dance for a second. Whatever it is, find a way to move your body in a way that doesn’t bring about immediate feelings of dread. You’ll thank yourself later.
Clean your room — this might just be me, but cleaning my space has always been a great stress reliever. Change your sheets, tidy up, vacuum a little bit, wipe down your work surfaces. Maybe rearrange your room. Move that frame from here to there. Switch that way your desk faces. Change it up!
And finally, acknowledge the good things that surround you. Acknowledge your opportunities, the people in your life, the moments that have led you here. The world might feel like a dark place right now, but try to make your little corner of the world a little less grim. I hope this is helpful. We are all going through it, but when are we not!