Mental Health Blog

Back to School: A Personal Experience with Little Ways to De-Stress

Hello everybody! I would like to wish a happy fall to everyone, regardless of whether you are a student or not.

In view of the upcoming school year, I have decided to write a blog post about little de-stressing strategies that I have found useful. However, some of these ideas are ones that I apply to my day-to-day living, regardless of whether I am enrolled in courses or not.

1. Tidying my Workspace
I have personally found that often, having a cluttered workspace makes me feel a bit mentally “cluttered” or “chaotic”. Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed by the amount of university tasks I have to get done, I start by tidying my workspace. This usually makes me feel a bit more refreshed, calm, and ready to take on my task list. It also serves as a useful/active study break if I start to feel a bit tired of sitting in one spot and want to do some hands-on work as a bit of a change.

2. Tracking my Tasks/Studying Hours
I often use a simple hour study-tracking app, such as the free app/Chrome extension Toggl, or a checklist (I like using the free Google Keep app) to track which tasks I have done and what I still have to do. I will also use these to track my study hours. This helps me feel a bit more organized, provides me with incentive and motivation to keep going and allows me to feel productive after a long work day. In a sense, tracking my work allows me to prove to myself that even though I may feel as if I have a lot to get done, I have made progress throughout the day and have tried my best to complete different tasks. It sometimes helps me to break down larger tasks into smaller ones at first. For instance, if I have to study an entire unit, I might use my planner to break the given unit down into specific chapters and/or the presentation slides for that unit. This helps me feel a bit less overwhelmed about the amount of studying that I have to do.

3. Changing Up the Work Environment
To prevent myself from getting bored with a monotonous work environment, I like to transfer myself from place to place while studying. For instance, I might transfer myself from my desk to my bed, to pacing around the room with my notes, to doing flashcards on my phone, to walking around the living room. For my notes, I like to use the app Onenote so that I can walk around with my notes and annotate them or write practice questions on them with a laptop pen. I like having the presentation slides on one side of the screen, and then panning the screen so that the presentation slide is hidden, revealing only the practice question that I have written on the side (which is relevant to the hidden slide). Then, I read the practice question, try to mentally answer it, and pan my screen over to the relevant slide with the answer to the question. This makes the learning process a bit more active and exciting for me.

When I have done flashcards in the past, I have used the free Quizlet or Anki app. In this way, I was able to study on my phone in any environment, which also made the learning process a bit more interesting. I liked using the Anki app also because it allowed me to quickly make a flashcard from a screenshot of a lecture slide, rather than having to manually type out the relevant flashcard information. It also allowed me to access my flashcards offline, which was useful if I was taking public transit. On a related note, I enjoy changing up my music to suit my mood and the environment. For instance, I might start the day with an electronic dance music playlist to wake me up while studying, and then near the evening switch to classical music or atmospheric/calming gaming soundtracks (such as those used for the video games Animal Crossing or Breath of the Wild). Applying these little adjustments to my university work/studying helps me look forward to the more stressful and daunting university tasks that I need to complete.

4. Physical Activity
Sometimes when I am feeling very overwhelmed while working, I might engage in a very short spurt of physical activity to calm down. For instance, running up and down a flight of stairs at the library, doing 10 burpees or jumping jacks, or dancing to a favourite upbeat song before settling down to work. I have also found certain yoga poses help me stretch and calm down if I find myself feeling a bit cramped during long hours of work. My personal favourites are happy baby pose, candle stick pose, plow pose, butterfly pose, and lotus pose. I especially like lotus pose, as this is a yoga position that can be done from a sitting down position. I sometimes do this pose while working at my desk, or even during a lecture.

5. A Sleep Routine
As someone who has always struggled to sleep, especially during the semester, I have found little routine things that seem to help me calm down at night. For instance, I like drinking some chamomile tea with dinner (in lieu of a caffeinated beverage) and reading a favourite/familiar book. In terms of books, I prefer to read something that does not have a very fast plot (or else I will be reading all night due to the suspense). I also love sleeping with white noise and a heated water bottle. I have found that heated water bottles are pleasant because they tend to be cheaper compared to weighted/electric blankets or microwaveable heat packs. They also do not leave a “ricey” residual smell, as microwaveable heat packs sometimes do. I also like to prepare my clothing for the next day and ensure that my bag is packed prior to going to bed. This helps save me time in the morning and provides me with reassurance that I have everything ready for the next day. I also find certain scents to be calming/pleasant before bed. I personally really enjoy the scent of peppermint. In the past, I have dripped a tiny bit of peppermint oil onto cotton puffs and placed some of those around my room. However, I find that smelling some peppermint tea is also pleasant and calming before settling down for the night.

To sum up, in view of another school semester, I often find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have found little ways to help cope with some of this stress, and I wanted to share these in case they might provide someone else with some helpful ideas and/or inspiration as they embark on another journey of a (school or non-school) year.

Thank you for reading this blog, and I am wishing everybody a wonderful and restful end of the summer!

Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.

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