Ways to De-Stress Without Feeling Unproductive

You know those days where nothing goes your way? When your stress is at an all time high and it just continues to build? This can lead to times where focusing on a midterm, a job interview, or even feedback from a school, seems impossible. Students in high school and college experience what seems like an unlimited amount of stress with all of the expectations and deadlines that are expected of them. School is not the only factor that affects the average 16 to 24-year-old; family and social dynamics play a huge part when trying to balance everything thrown your way. Handling stress can be a daunting process and even though the last thing you want to do is address how you are feeling, stress needs to be recognized and handled as soon as it is detected. Here are various ways to cope with stress without feeling unproductive!

  • Exercising

Exercising, in my opinion, is very stress relieving. I have developed a passion for working out and pushing myself to the point of exhaustion. Sounds sick, right? I see it as more of a confidence booster. When you go for a run or lift weights at the gym, why are you doing these activities? Not only are you helping your body work to the best of its ability, you are also making yourself happier. Dopamine, one of the most common neurotransmitters released by the brain daily, is released in a large amount while working out. The presence of dopamine boosts levels of happiness and provides a sense of reward (sorry, I’m a neuroscience major, and I think this is pretty cool). Along with the brain giving awesome feedback, the physical health of an average human being improves tenfold with daily movement and exercise.

Going out for a run or hitting the gym might seem challenging and may even seem impossible with a busy schedule. But in the end, it really does make a difference. Exercising around 30 minutes to an hour about four times a week improves all aspects of health: mental, physical, and psychological. Exercising is such a broad definition; it is NOT just running (running can suck, I know). One of my favorite activities is walking while taking time to listen to my favorite playlist. Other great ways to get active are utilizing fun gym classes like cycling or Zumba and riding bikes with friends or family on a local city or forest trail. It only takes 10 minutes to get down on the floor and do some sit-ups while jamming to your favorite tunes, or to take a walk around your neighborhood. You might find that exercising can actually be FUN!

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  • Cleaning your room/clutter

I know this might be a weird option for attempting to de-stress, but for some fairly weird reason I feel very accomplished after cleaning my room, or just organizing some of the clutter that has been sitting there for a week or two. I am a very, very organized person, but sometimes life takes a toll and you start to throw things all over the place because “you don’t have time to deal with it now”. Your room represents your life in a way. This is not an end all-be all but taking the time to tend to tiny problems like this might help in de-stressing and feeling better about yourself. I feel like a boss when I clean my room, and so should you.

  • Plan something to look forward to at the end of the day/week

When I was taking chemistry my freshman year of college, my friends and I would always plan on getting huge ice cream cones after our exams. Not only did this motivate me to work harder, it also caused the time to move much faster than it would have if I had only focused on my exams. Making sure to reward yourself for accomplishing hard work is essential in life! Even if it is going to a fancy coffee shop with a friend after completing a huge exam, the idea of going out and doing something fun with your time will help you to feel happier throughout the day. These activities will relieve stress, as well as pave a new and more upbeat beginning for the next day and beyond. Giving yourself a reason to look forward to something can also make the time where stress is inevitable go faster, which assists in keeping your sanity intact. Not only do you feel as if you accomplished a bunch of work when looking back upon the day, you will also feel satisfied with how you spent your time. There is a way to experience BOTH a productive and fun day!

  • Cooking something new

Cooking is such a great way to take a breather and focus on something besides school. If this seems like a chore, then think, you have to eat, don’t you? Baking and cooking your favorite meals can be a great start for those who do not cook often, or don’t have the best skills in the kitchen. Trust me, it can be hard when you are prone to burning the edges of brownies or watching the inside of the oven catch on fire while trying to bake a lemon poppy seed loaf (yes, this did happen to me, and no, I haven’t attempted to make this particular food item since then).

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The best way to go about these activities is to do it with friends. That way if something goes wrong you can blame the whole group for screwing up! Just kidding. Experimenting with food is a fun way to refocus and learn new ways in which you can apply yourself in different environments.

  • Doing something fun with friends

The presence and support of friends helps more than you could ever imagine. Sometimes, you might think you don’t have time to have fun or spend time with your friends. This feeling of not having the time to do something besides work adds even more stress to your life! Though it is important to get work done, it won’t hurt to say “YES” to your friends when they ask you to go out to a movie, or experience a new restaurant. The presence of others physically displays the support system that one has, which can be very reassuring when everything seems impossibly hard to handle. Not only does sharing a funny memory or talking about the various problems you might be having distract you from the stress you are feeling, it practically relieves your stress and helps you to see how capable you are of handling life as it comes. Friends and family are very encouraging and are always there to lift your mood and make sure you know how amazing you are, even when a test doesn’t go the way you planned or an assignment wasn’t completed on time. Also, reciprocating their concern for you, such as asking how they are feeling, establishes a deeper bond and relieves their stress as well! I love getting dinner with my friends and asking them about their day. This helps me learn about their lives and what they do in their free time. It also shows me that my friends are just as stressed as I am. I’m not alone and neither are you!

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These activities, as well as many others, help to lower stress levels, especially when things seem more hectic than you can handle! Before starting these activities or having a freak out session out of panic (because life is stressful and unpredictable sometimes), take a couple of deep breaths and tell yourself everything is OK. Cleaning your room, or going for a jog/walk are great ways to relieve built up pressure you might not even think you feel, and this is what makes these methods in taking the mind off of stressful aspects of life so useful and productive in its own way. I used to feel guilty when I would go for a run and I still had a paper to write or a chapter to outline, but now I understand that I shouldn’t feel guilty for giving my body and mind relaxing and healthy tasks, and you shouldn’t either! Always tune into the signals your body and your mind tell you and never get down on yourself for needing space from life’s many requirements.

-Francesca Cocchiarale

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