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Tips on stress relief from someone who was always stressed

Admittedly, I would not consider myself the best person to share tips on how to relieve stress. Recently, though, I have acquired quite a few new skills that have helped me lower my baseline stress levels, so they have gone down from unbearable to slightly bearable. At Brandeis, a school where everyone is doing a million things a day—studying for exams, writing papers, organizing events for the dozen clubs they are in, working two jobs, an internship and somehow managing to find time to eat—an article like this is strikingly necessary. 

Somehow I feel less busy than most on this campus. I am taking four classes and have a few extracurriculars on top of attempting to study for the LSAT, but still I feel behind. This mindset is the first thing you need to conquer in order to become less stressed at Brandeis. You must save time for yourself to have healthy coping mechanisms and fun free time so you aren’t constantly on edge; also, you need time to sleep! Over the past few weeks I have found three things that have helped reduce my stress and make living here less hellish. They work for me, but they may not work for everyone. I am a unique case because what some people consider work is something I do for relaxation… but bear with me. 

Cooking/Baking:

Probably one of the best things you can do during your free time that reaps considerable rewards for your mind and body is cooking! Depending on where you live, this may be easier said than done, but for those with access to a kitchen this is the number one activity to begin with. On days where I feel drained and like nothing has gone right, the best way to make myself feel better is with a home cooked meal, dessert or having a meal with a friend (particularly a home cooked one). Dining halls on campus are dreadful, we all know this. Being able to control at least one aspect of my life—my diet—is so important to me. When I am cooking I put on music or a podcast and drown out my thoughts for a bit with true crime or comedy. Cooking can also be a great group activity if you are okay with sharing your space. Get a group of people together and make a meal, listen to music and chat! 

Baking, on the other hand, is more of a serene activity for me, while cooking is often more lively. I bake loaves of banana or pumpkin bread on lazy days where I don’t have class. Baking is another time for me to turn off my brain and focus on a recipe—something simple and thoughtless, something I can churn out perfectly every time without fear of failure. Usually baking days come with my second activity for stress relief that a lot of people may dislike. 

Cleaning:

Okay, hear me out with this one. I cannot get adequate work done unless my space is clean. I love feeling clean and organized, and enjoy coming back to a calm environment after a hectic day of class. Keeping my space clean, and the process of cleaning it, helps me prevent my stress levels from rising too much. I am fortunate enough to usually have the motivation for cleaning, but if you do not that is okay too! 

On cleaning days I religiously do my dishes, put them away in their proper spots and wipe down my kitchen. I take out the trash, recycling and clean the bathroom (I live in a two-person Grad for context). Normally my room is clean but if it needs to be, I organize my personal space, do laundry, etc. Finally, the most rewarding part of it all is cleaning the floor. I dry Swiffer our linoleum floors and/or borrow a vacuum from a friend if needed, and then wet Swiffer mop everything afterwards. If you know Grad, you know the space is pretty grimy, so every week I am wiping away a layer of the years of grime that have built up. There is something so satisfying about having a space be clean from top to bottom for me. And the process of cleaning is relaxing in that everything gets done exactly how I like it. I put in my airpods, blast a playlist and get to cleaning. Normally the whole process takes an hour or less if I am extra efficient, and afterwards I feel as refreshed as my room looks. This doesn’t work for everyone, but for the people for whom it works, it REALLY works. 

Working out: 

I never would have put this on a list of stress-relieving activities prior to this semester, but something in me has changed ever since accompanying some of my good friends to the gym a few times a week. Working out is truly the best example of an activity where my brain completely turns off, and that is all I search for in a relaxation technique. I can never truly be relaxed if I am capable of complex thought. In the gym I have no thoughts, I’m not even thinking about how I may be hurting or tired. I think absolutely nothing. 

For beginners in the gym, the key is starting slow. Go with a friend or two who have experience working out and have them help you get started and get comfortable in the gym environment. Brandeis is generally pretty welcoming, and the weight and cardio rooms are no different. Even when I was in this new environment, trying not to look too stupid, I found myself not being stressed at all. Moving your body takes all the stress off of your mind, and is one of the healthiest coping mechanisms you can acquire. All day you are working out your brain in class, so why not give it a break and make your body do some work instead? It may seem daunting, but if you are capable I highly recommend beginning a workout routine. Maintaining daily or weekly routines can also help prevent stress and keep you up to date on all of the work you need to do. Keep a planner, stay organized and start feeling better every day. 

 

Remember that stress is normal, but if it’s taking over every aspect of your life and preventing you from relaxing ever, maybe drop a few activities. Give yourself the time you need and deserve. Everything centers around how you take care of yourself.

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