Contents Under Pressure!

6 ways to manage stress and have a less tense 2019

Well, the holidays are over, we’ve all rung in the new year, and here we are — it’s January. Feeling a little stressed? You’re not alone. Whether it’s the impending end of semester finals or college applications or just the general feeling like you’re bailing out your sinking boat with a teaspoon. Never fear – here are a few tips to beat stress and help you keep you cool as a cucumber in 2019.

Before we begin, a little disclaimer. Stress is a normal part of being human. It’s actually pretty useful. It helps motivate you to tackle complicated problems and pushes you to get your homework done or gear up for that test. Stress is your body’s way of handling a challenge. But feeling too much stress, or feeling that stress for too long, isn’t useful. It can make you jittery, keep you awake at night, and make you feel helpless, anxious, and totally under pressure. That makes it all the more important to have a good set of stress-management tools to keep the jitters at bay.

First and foremost, breathe

When you feel stress creeping in, take some time to breathe. Sit comfortably. Put your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel your rib cage expand. Think about breathing all the way down to the bottom of your abdomen, then let it out slowly through your mouth. Concentrate on how it feels to take a big, deep breath and let it out again. This sort of calm easy breathing tells your nervous system that it can take a break from churning out all those stress hormones and will slow racing hearts and racing thoughts. As a plus, it gives you a chance to focus on something that isn’t your stress. You don’t need to set aside a lot of time or space – even a few deep breaths can completely change how you feel.

Take care of yourself

When you’re stressed, prioritize self-care. I’m not necessarily talking about face masks and bubble baths though. Anyone who’s worked with me on ACT prep knows my “take care of your Kindergartner needs” talk, and it applies to all stressful situations. Ask yourself the same questions you’d ask a Kindergartener on the verge of a meltdown: are you hungry? Thirsty? Are you too tired? Would you like to take a little break? All stresses great and small feel worse if you’re not taking care of those basic needs.

Schedule yourself

Even if you’re under a tight deadline, you still need to sleep at night, eat meals, stay hydrated, and move around. Make sure you’re taking care of those basics – and, where possible, add in other stress relievers. Pet a dog, take a walk, make time to talk with family and friends, heck, even dive into that bubble bath with a soothing facemask. Just be sure that stress isn’t making you bail on taking good care of you.

When you’re stressed, one of the first things to go can be your ability to manage your time and prioritize your tasks. Some people respond to stress by going overboard and overdoing while, on the flip side, others respond by doing anything to avoid finally writing that essay or filling out a college application, only to feverishly do the whole thing at the last minute. Good news! This tip works for you whether you’re an over doer or a master procrastinator. Make a schedule your new best friend.

Figure out what you need to do, what steps you’ll need to take to complete that project, and book yourself that time in advance. Look at your calendar, make yourself appointments for all the steps, and then stick to it – no more, no less. If you’re an over doer, good news! You’re clear about what you need to do, and you don’t need to do more. If you’re a procrastinator? Also, good news! Now you’re not going to write that semester-long paper in a terrible 48 hours before it’s due.

Practice positive what-ifs

When you’re stressed, your mind can play a non-stop movie marathon of all the worst-case scenarios. What if I forget everything I learned about French and flunk the test? What if I get mono and miss everything important this semester? What if no colleges accept me at all and my parents will be mad and I’m going to become a goatherd for the rest of my life and I don’t even really like goats? (Maybe that last one was just me…)

Next time you feel like you’re sliding toward the worst-case scenario parade? Try to practice some positive what ifs instead. What if everything goes really well and the test is great? What if my ACT reading passages are easier than I thought they would be? Sure, it might feel a little weird at first, but it’s fun, a little silly, and a great way to shake your brain out of fixating only on the negative possibilities.

Ask yourself “am I in charge of that?”

Some stressors are in your control – like if you do the homework that’s due tomorrow or not – but some of them aren’t. When dealing with feelings of stress, it’s really helpful to sort out which is which. If you’re stressed about that homework? You’re in charge of that! Make a study plan, ask your teachers for help if you need to, clear some time in your schedule. But if you’re feeling stressed about, say, getting a flat tire on the way to school before a big test? That’s not really a thing that’s under your control.

So, sort out your stresses. Take care of the ones that you can control. For the ones you can’t control, find a soothing way to remind yourself that you’re as prepared as you can be and can (and will!) adapt to challenges that come your way.

Be open and honest with those around you

Sometimes the people who love and care for us the most can stress us out more than all the pop quizzes and timed essay exams combined. You know the feeling – your dad asks if you’ve studied enough for your math test tomorrow and suddenly you’re on edge. But maybe you snap because you’re stressed and you don’t want to let him down, then you’re both stressed. Then maybe, because he’s stressed about you, he asks again in the morning while you’re packing your backpack and you’re even MORE stressed. Yep, it’s official, you’re on the worst-ever-stress-merry-go-round.

How do you get off this terrible ride? By talking about it. When you’re feeling under pressure, talk to the important people in your life. Tell them about what’s stressing you out, and ask them how they handle stress in their day to day lives. Sharing stressors and letting those around you know how you’re feeling helps! It’s a good way to get the support you need and not add to the pressure you’re already feeling. Plus, as a bonus, it helps the people in your life feel less stressed out too. It’s a win-win.

While life will never be stress free, practicing some of these techniques can help you keep your cool under pressure. Learning to manage stress effectively is one of the most useful and practical life skills you can develop – you couldn’t make a better new year’s resolution. Now take a few deep breaths and get out there and enjoy 2019!

Similar Posts