Trifecta stress relief for students


Photo Courtesy of Best Picko

There are a plethora of stress relief methods, and meditation proves very efficient.

Tyler Abraham, Staff Writer

Multiple studies have shown that approximately 50% of teens today say they are stressed “all the time,” a statistic that soars far higher than reports from past generations. Teens identify multiple sources of stress including social, school, home or even societal conditions.

From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that teens obviously want to feel less anxious, but we don’t believe we can get everything done and still take care of ourselves. With school, home and extracurricular responsibilities, most of us believe we have no time left to pay attention to anything more. At best, we stay in survival mode, just hanging on. At worst, we give up.

Though many of us may think it’s impossible to relieve the pressure and still maintain a hectic schedule, it’s not. Here are some research-based, ways to feel more relaxed in the least amount of time possible. The three practices listed below take no longer than 5-30 minutes and reliable studies suggest, implementing these strategies will not only quell the stress you’re feeling but help you face what you have to do with greater efficiency.

I’ve tried these recommendations myself and have found, no matter how panicked you feel about tacking one more thing onto your crazy schedule, you’ll eventually feel better and get work done in less time than you would while stressed out. 

Get out of your room:

Believe it or not, sitting out in nature for 30 minutes a day can help relieve stress, and you don’t need to camp out to the woods to do it. You can derive benefits just by sitting out on your porch or taking a few minutes to take a walk outside. You can do this alone or with others.  According to Harvard Health, “A 2014 study found that group nature walks were just as effective as solo treks in terms of lowering depression and stress and improving overall mental outlook.”

Not only can more time outside help but even listening to artificial naturalistic sounds can also be effective. The Harvard study also found that “calming nature sounds” could lower blood pressure and levels of stress. Just looking at images of nature, like trees, mountains or animals can help take your mind off of negative thoughts.

Though we’re often most comfortable inside, research suggests that there is a part of us that still needs to connect with the outdoors. Often teens hide in their rooms to escape negativity, but sitting or walking outside is can more effective when it comes to stress relief.

Try some quiet time:

We need more quiet time, and this doesn’t mean sitting on the couch staring at the wall bored out of our minds or sitting in lotus position on a cushion in a Buddhist temple.

Short meditation exercises only take 5-10 minutes a day and can significantly reduce stress levels. This is called micro-meditation, a term recently coined for short periods of meditation. Previously, most medical or mental health experts believed that meditation was only effective if performed for prolonged periods. However, according to recent Yale University’s study, small doses of meditation significantly enhance cognitive performance while reducing stress.

Micro- meditation is a brief meditation requiring a balance between relaxation and attentiveness. Contrary to popular belief, you are actively doing something while you meditate. Find a comfortable place to sit where you can concentrate without being interrupted. Sit upright (alert, but relaxed) to help your mind stay focused. Become aware of where your body is tense and try to relax those muscles. Then, and this is the most important part, inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. Do this for 5-10 minutes.

Though there are countless, more complicated ways to study meditation, the Yale study suggests you can expect a major change within a couple of days after performing this exercise stating, “We tested the boundary conditions of brief mindfulness meditation, and showed that even a small dose can have beneficial effects in individuals with very little or no experience at all.”

Sleep better, not more:

Doctors researching sleep at the renowned John Hopkins School of Medicine assert that teens need around 9 hours of sleep a night and a Center for Disease Control surveys suggests 7 – 10 high school students fail to get enough sleep on school nights. Some additional surveys have found that most teens only get around 6 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis. The consequences of lack of sleep may include more illnesses, feeling more stressed, and lower academic performance.

According to a Harvard University medical report based on a variety of studies, the best remedy to stress is sleeping enough and going to bed at the same time each night. However, as most of us know, that just isn’t realistic for most of us. 

However, the study also shows us ways to get better quality sleep even if we can’t clock in at the ideal 8 – 9 hours. Research suggests that no matter what time you go to sleep that you should establish a bedtime routine that you repeat in the same order every night to send your brain a signal that it’s sleeping time: change into comfortable clothes, put your cell away, turn down the lights and read for 10 minutes. Do not watch or listen to anything visually or emotionally stimulating.

You should also create a quiet and dark environment. Turn off all digital devices possible, or anything emitting light. If you can’t control noise in your home, use your ear pods or earplugs to block it out.

Finally, you should never eat or consume caffeinated products in the two hours before you plan to go to bed because stimulants and food digestion create sleep disruption.

Keep this in mind…

If you’re still skeptical,  consider this. I’ve found myself overwhelmed by stress lately, I tried these techniques and they’ve helped me a lot. At first, it seemed insignificant, but once I regularly took 10 minutes a day to sit or walk outside it really made a difference in my stress level while still allowing me the time to complete what I needed to do throughout the day. Sleep routines have helped me wake up more rested even when I couldn’t get a full 8-9 hours in.  And yes, I even tried the 5- 10 minute micro-meditations. They honestly made me feel calmer and able to return to my schedule with more perspective. 

Whatever you do, keep in mind that just because you have too little time to come up with the ideal plan to fix all your problems doesn’t mean you should do nothing at all. Often, we are least likely to take care of ourselves when we need it the most. You may not have control over how many assignments are due that week, how much your family is arguing or what your best friend just said behind your back. Yet, no matter what’s going on, you need to take a few minutes to remind yourself that you deserve some care, peace, and attention. Even if you start with 10 minutes a day, you’ll not only get where you want to go faster but become a less stressed person in the long run.