The last several weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve been constantly chasing Father Time to try to finish all my work, write articles for at least three organizations and study for finals. I commute every day from home to school and back. This drains my energy so much that I started to look like a zombie. I didn’t get enough sleep because I stayed up doing homework all night and wandered around all day in a sleep-deprived state.
I would forget minor things like my keys, my notebook or my wallet at home as I rushed out the door. Sometimes on my way to school, I realized on the train that I forgot my glasses at home. And I need those to see. I felt basically brain dead.
I couldn’t keep this up. Even my family started to notice how stressed I felt. My mom told me I always looked upset about something, and that I was going through weird mood swings that changed my personality. I started to understand that what I was doing to myself hurt my body and needed to end—even if it came at the expense of time I needed to work.
What I needed to do, I realized, was to practice self care.
1. I scheduled myself 7–8 non-negotiable hours of sleep.
To get 7-8 hours of sleep, I would come home then shower and eat dinner as soon as I could. Then, I would get started on my homework. Before I even started, I put my phone away so I wouldn’t get distracted from the social media notifications popping up on my phone. I tucked it in my desk so I wouldn’t even see it to get distracted. I would try to finish everything by midnight, after which I would set my alarm and go to bed, so the next day I felt energized and more awake.
On the days when I felt like I hadn’t slept forever, I scheduled myself power-naps. I set my phone timer to 30 minutes and used the time to sleep or at least clear my mind. That way, when I woke up I could get my homework done faster because I felt less sleepy and more focused than I did before.
2. I also stopped drinking coffee.
Caffeine doesn’t always help to keep you up, especially for long periods of time. Instead, I put my sleep time into my coffee time. Naps work better for your brain and helps students retain more information than coffee does, which can only help when you’re studying for exams.
3. I kept up with my social life.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, having a social life and sleep both factor significantly into reducing stress. Hanging out with my friends again, especially off-campus, helped me destress. We would go to restaurants with delicious food, explore the city and even catch a movie. Not having to think about school, classes and deadlines helped me relax.
However, when I hang out with my friends, I schedule the time for when I don’t have too many things to do. If I go out when I’m busy, not only will I fall behind on work, I won’t have fun because I’m more worried about the assignments I have to finish and neither will they. If I plan, we can all have fun and I can have a relaxing day where I don’t feel worried about school. Everybody wins.
4. I focused on breathing.
While it sounds strange, breathing makes up a key part of reducing stress. I learned how to breathe again. When you get stressed out and have to deal with anxiety, it gets harder to breathe properly. You feel like you’re having a panic attack, or you stop breathing for a second and don’t realize it. When that happens, remind yourself to breathe in and out. Deep-breathing exercises can help melt away the tension stress causes. Breathing deeply helped me focus on my work and cleared my mind, so I didn’t have to rush and everything got done with no mistakes.
Insane stress happens to everyone at some point in college. But you have to remember to take care of yourself. If you don’t, you risk your health and your future at the same time. Learning how to manage your stress will help you concentrate on your work and get things done much faster.
Once I figured out how to handle the stress and anxiety plaguing my life, I started to feel less stressed out. I’m doing well in my classes, and more importantly, I’m taking care of myself. Remembering to sleep, socialize and breathe will help you deal with your stress and feel happier.