We now know what practices to avoid when times are rough. Now time to make you feel better. What is great about the following activities is that they only require short amount of time to produce lasting benefits, and that is what you want – small investment for high returns.
We all know exercise is good for us, some of us strive to incorporate some form of exercise in our daily routines. Physical activity might be needed even more during times of distress. When we exercise, the brain increases production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or norepinephrine which send messages throughout the body, giving you “exercise high” – that sense of euphoria after a workout session. Research has suggested that exercise may help ward off anxiety by enhancing the body’s ability to handle stress. It doesn’t matter what sort of exercise you do, but if you are short for time, a 15-minute YouTube HIIT workout or a 30-minute jog will do the trick.
During my law school days, I developed the habit of taking a 20-minute nap mid-day. What I have found is that I wake up refreshed and geared for another session of homework. Now you may think that 20 minutes is too short! However, waking up within 20 minutes prevents you from entering REM sleep, in other words deep sleep. What this nap does is it restores your alertness and keeps you going for a couple of hours. Beware however to not sleep any longer to avoid developing “sleep inertia”, which is that unpleasant grogginess that takes a while to shake off. Try having a cup of tea or coffee immediately before your nap to supercharge the effects of the nap!
Remember ultra-sad romantic movies which end with the protagonist (male or female) screaming in despair at the death of his/her romantic interest? Didn’t see that coming did you?! Do you remember a time when everything was going wrong and all you wanted to do was let out a scream? Well, it turns out that there are some benefits in letting your lungs loose in all its glory. You can read about some research done by the scientist who invented “Primal Therapy” here. It does sound a bit dodgy, but do share your thoughts if you are interested. To me, a large scream that is not induced by fear or despair makes you feel lighter, it somehow makes you feel better. But make sure you are alone when you imitate a lion.
4.Pray or meditate
Whether you are religious or not, pausing for a moment is calming. In your moments of silence, bring to mind what you are grateful for (family, loved ones, the breeze on your face, the sun on your skin) and breathe deeply. Do not let your thoughts wander to your anxieties, but simply be present and truly engage with the many blessings in your life. At the end of it, life will surely not look so bleak. For those who are religious, combine gratitude with submitting your anxieties to God. Humble prayer in acknowledgement that the task at hand is beyond you, and placing your trust in the security that God has your back returns balance to your world.
If you are revising for exams, have a small study group of not more than 5 people. Discussing areas which are unsure of will aid in your understanding and alleviate any worries you may have. If you prefer to study alone, that is fine as well. But if you do get stuck, do not be ashamed to ask for help, whether that is help from your professor or good friend does not matter. If you are writing an essay, dissertation or thesis, it helps to have someone who will give you some assurance on the quality of your work. Working with a proofreader can save you time when it comes to perfecting the English of your paper.
What you do not want through your academic career is a sense of loneliness, that this mountain you are trying to scale is impossible. You are not alone. You are far from alone.
Now that you have ideas on how to effectively combat stress, do not waste more time by procrastinating. I have written an article which has my top 3 tips on how to crush the antithesis of productivity.
These mechanisms are a way for you to endure the journey. Remember, although the moment seems to drag on forever, there is an end to what you are doing, whether that is writing a dissertation or preparing for final exams. Be clear that although you must alleviate your stress, you must not however indulge in such activities and be too liberal with your time. Irrespective of how stressed you may feel, what remains is that work needs to be done. The best way to confront stress is to stare it down by actually doing the work.
Aaron Lim is a practicing lawyer, and co-founder of WordPeckers.org