Stress is a neurological or physiological reaction to help us cope with an external event. However, in a world that creates interventions and gives advice on how to reduce stress we often forget that stress isn’t all bad. For example, it can increase our alertness and improve our behavioural and cognitive activities, thus our performance. We need that little bit of stress to push us to be able to memorise that essential equation or complete our essays in time.
The dangerous part of stress is becoming so entrenched in the activity that produces it, that you reach the stage of chronic stress, causing negative side effects such as anxiety and depression which can result in decreased academic performance. So, whilst in the middle of exam/ essay time, it is important to de-stress. Below are some tactics I use.
Some music, a hot drink, and a walk
Listening to music can help reduce stress, as well as making yourself a cup of tea (or a hot beverage of your choice). Taking walks have also been linked to lowering levels of stress. This is perfect for our beautiful green campus, especially now that it is sunny.
Reading, according to research done by Minilab International at Sussex University, can decrease stress levels by up to 68%. It is thought that this happens because it allows the human mind to solely focus on the activity at hand, thus reduces the tension associated with stress. A personal favourite book of mine is “Half a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Another method of de-stressing can be found in the activity of PUPPY PETTING. The student union (here at Loughborough) offers an opportunity to pet some puppies as part of their ‘Keep Calm’ campaign. This is how it works: We line up outside of the room after a session is done, they call us in, get us to sit along the wall. And then THE BEST PART… CUTENESS OVERLOAD. After the 15-minute session, you will feel unwound and less stressed. This may be because the act of petting a dog can produce stress-relief hormones reducing those feelings of tension. So, if you are ever having a stressful day or week and you like dogs, just look out for the puppy petting sessions.
The options do not end here, there is a variety of things you could do to relieve stress. For example, you could watch something that makes you laugh. My favourites at the moment are the “try not to laugh challenge” videos. Yes, it’s an old challenge, but man does it work magic. It helps us smile which releases dopamine (our happy hormone) and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone), all in all helping us de-stress.
Sometimes I take out some time to have a drink or to socialise a bit. Just talking can be a great stress reliever, whether it is venting about the assignment for a second or talking absolute rubbish. Anything that can make you smile can help you relieve stress.
Remember that small amounts of stress for a short period of time is quite helpful. But you should always the lookout for if the stress is becoming maladaptive to your performance and is impacting your health. If so, look for ways to de-stress!!