Stress is a natural part of life, and everyone experiences it.1, 2 But if you don’t have a method or technique to help manage it, stress can impact your health and potentially cause issues like insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, and stomach or chest pain.1 When the effects of stress prevent you from accomplishing your tasks, you may be less motivated to work hard at your job or online college studies. There are, however, proactive steps you can take manage your stress and promote rest and productivity.
Schedule a break.
Your body might respond to stress with an increased heart rate, insomnia, or heavy breathing. But, your body also responds to relaxation techniques, which can slow your breathing and decrease your blood pressure.3 One way to help limit physical tension or mental fatigue and promote relaxation is by scheduling time to take a break. Set a reminder on your phone, App, or computer program to alert you to take a break. For example, if you’re working on challenging classwork, you might focus on the task for 50 minutes and then take a break for 10 minutes.
During your break, pick an activity that keeps your brain active yet also distracts you and relaxes you from your work. A few suggestions include reading a chapter in a book or listening to an inspirational video or podcast. Another option is to close your eyes and focus on your deep breathing. When you breathe deep, the extra boost of oxygen your body receives promotes tension and stress reduction, and it’s something you can do anywhere.2, 3
If stress has you feeling anxious, tense, or worried, meditating can help you find a sense of peace.4 When you meditate, you concentrate on clearing your mind of thoughts that cause stress. Meditation can also enhance both your physical and emotional well-being. The benefits may include: 2
- Lowering your heart rate and blood pressure
- Changing your outlook on stuff causing you stress
- Developing skills to control stress
- Increasing your self-awareness of what causes you stress
- Improving your patience
There are several types of meditation and relaxation methods such as yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, and reading and reflecting.5 Each type may incorporate a different element to help with the process, like relaxed breathing, a quiet atmosphere, or focused attention.4 Still, they all share the same goal of attaining inner peace.4
Listen to music.
Hearing soothing music can “induce a calm state of mind” and act as a distraction and stress management tool.5, 6 Studies show that music helps to reduce psychological stress and can improve immune function.7 Listening to music may be helpful when you’re expecting a difficult workday, are stuck in traffic or struggling to complete a challenging class assignment.5 Any music you enjoy “will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.”3 Turn on your favorite song, take a deep breath, and try to forget about your stressors.
Take a 10-minute walk.
Exercise clears cortisol, the stress hormone, from your body and helps increase your endorphins.2, 3 When you make time for exercise, you might even see a boost in your self-confidence and improvements in your sleep. So, whether you enjoy peaceful walks, yoga, or aerobics, almost any form of exercise can relieve stress.4 However, if time is a concern, a quick 10-minute walk can help clear your mind and ease stress levels.
Snuggle a weighted blanket.
Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep because you couldn’t shut off your brain? Maybe you worried about everything you needed to accomplish the next day, such as going to work, finishing your classwork, and transporting your kids to and from extracurricular activities. Stress in your life can lead to sleep disruptions. Using a weighted blanket, however, might help.
Weighted blankets are heavier than the average blanket and, depending on your body weight, one can weigh between four and 30 pounds—recommendations state that blankets should be about 10 percent of your body weight.8 The blankets, filled with materials like glass beads or polly pellets, can “ground” your body while you sleep by pushing it downwards.8, 9 According to studies, the added weight can have a profound calming effect and can improve sleep and reduce pain and stress.9 Weighted blankets can also add heat; therefore, before using one, discuss your situation and with your doctor or medical professional to make sure one would not interfere with any medical conditions.9
Practice a craft.
Skills that require repetitive motion, such as knitting or cross-stitching, can help ease stress and increase concentration.3, 10 Additional benefits include lowering the heart rate and blood pressure and decreasing muscle tension.10 Yet because kitting are cross-stitching are learned skills, you may not know how to do them. Therefore, you may be better off choosing another option to help lessen your stress. Adding a new challenge when you’re already stressed may not help decrease your tension. But, if you’re motivated to learn, go for it!
You are a busy adult student who may manage several commitments once. Set limits for yourself and don’t be afraid to say no when you’re asked to add more to your plate. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you can’t do it all and asking others for help when you need it.1
Seek help from a medical professional.
Chronic stress can lead to physical problems like exhaustion, weight loss or gain, dizziness, and a racing heart. Before stress becomes a medical issue, talk to your doctor or medical professional about your concerns and for more options to deal with it.1
Your goal as an online student is to keep moving forward and complete your degree. However, you might experience obstacles along the way. During these times, take action and take care of yourself. Remember, you can always contact your student advisor or instructor(s) for help when needed.
1. “Stress.” Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress (Visited 02/26/2019).
2. “5 ways to beat stress.” UPMC MyHealth Matters. Retrieved from: https://www.upmcmyhealthmatters.com/5-ways-to-beat-stress/ (Visited 02/26/2019).
3. “20 Scientifically Backed Ways To De-Stress Right Now.” HuffPost. Retrieved from: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stress-relief-that-works_n_3842511 (Visited 02/26/2019).
4. “Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858 (Visited 02/26/2019).
5. “Stress Relief: 8 Ways to De-stress Your Life.” Women’sHealth. Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19904835/de-stress-instantly/ (Visited 02/26/2019).
6. “The Power of Music To Reduce Stress.” PsychCentral. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress/ (Visited 02/26/2019).
7. “4 Scientific Studies that Show Music Decreasing Stress and Promoting Healing.” PsychCentral. Retrieved from: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2015/04/5-scientific-studies-the-prove-music-decreases-stress-and-promotes-healing/ (Visited 02/26/2019).
8. “Why You Should Use a Weighted Blanket for Anxiety.” Healthline. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/weighted-blanket-for-anxiety#benefits (Visited 02/26/2019).
9. “The 7 best weighted blankets of 2019.” TODAY. Retrieved from: https://www.today.com/home/7-best-weighted-blankets-t148948?cid=sm_npd_td_fb_ma&fbclid=IwAR0ke-R3zyvaLdYq5r6iccBxX1H25MLfDwCRsfzPsMAvDtbVU7JLoyU-ldg (Visited 02/26/2019).
10. “Knitting.” Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Retrieved from: https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/fulltext/2001/07000/knitting.4.aspx (Visited 02/26/2019).
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