There is no denying that over the past year, our world has been subsumed — in many ways — by utter chaos. Whether you’re a middle schooler preparing to transition to a new high school, a junior studying hard for the SAT, or a parent balancing work and your child’s remote curriculum, it’s probably safe to assume that your stress levels have been higher than normal (if not through the roof). At Sentia, we are committed to providing holistic academic mentorship to our students, and a huge part of academic success is the ability to deeply engage intellectually while remaining emotionally balanced. Of course, we hope that all of our students are finding ample time to rest, take breaks, and eat a healthy diet, but we’d like to introduce a few more tools to the arsenal of strategies for combating rising stress levels. Check out (and please consider implementing) these tips for managing stress. Read on!
Indulge in distraction when you need a break.
When you feel your anxiety level rising, take note and act accordingly: give yourself a break. Breaks are a tried and true way to reset your mind and body. Giving yourself a moment to simply breathe, go on a walk, catch up with a friend, or watch cute animal videos can have a re-energizing effect. When you sit back down at your desk after allowing your mind to wander, you are more likely to have the stamina to focus and successfully retain information.
Perhaps this adorable video of a cat comforting a nervous dog will do the trick or maybe this live jellyfish cam will bring you a sense of calm. Whatever it is that helps you reset: indulge as needed. Taking breaks in not a weakness by any stretch; recognizing when your focus is waning and stress levels are rising is key. Having the tools to reset those levels is a great strength.
Get up and move!
Short bursts of exercise can have a significant impact on your mood. Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, claims that just three minutes of exercise can improve your mood drastically. Dr. McGonigal suggests selecting a song that brings you joy and moving your body in a way that feels good to you.
Throw a one person dance party! Do jumping jacks. Spin around in circles. Do push-ups. Whatever it is, if you move your muscles and get your heart rate up, you will be rewarded with a boost of dopamine. Chances are you will feel more alive and energized when you get back to your studying, writing, or Zoom class.
Try five-finger breathing.
This one is a Sentia favorite: five-finger breathing. When you feel your stress levels skyrocket, focusing on your breathing is always an excellent idea — but sometimes it’s not that easy. Five-finger breathing is a technique that guides you through controlled and even breaths. So, put down your pencil and follow these steps:
Step 1: Hold your hand in front of you with fingers spread.
Step 2: With your index finger on the opposite hand, begin to trace the outline of your extended hand, starting at the wrist and moving up the pinkie finger.
Step 3: As you trace up your pinkie finger, breathe in. As you trace down your pinkie, breathe out. Trace up your ring finger and breathe in. Trace down your ring finger and breath out. And so on.
Step 4: Once you’ve traced your entire hand finger by finger, reverse the process and trace from your thumb back to your pinkie. Be sure to inhale as you trace up and exhale as you trace down.
Dr. Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, has created a video explaining the technique, which we hope will help you engage and re-center your mind while crowding out worrying thoughts.
It’s easy to spend the entire day inside when you’ve got your nose in a textbook, back-to-back Zoom lectures to attend, or a rigorous test prep regimen to adhere to. But, making time to get outside each day is crucial; spending time outdoors can result in meaningful improvements to mental health. Many studies support the notion that spending time outside surrounded by nature can spark physical changes in the brain that are associated with improved mood.
If you are lucky enough to live somewhere with wilderness close by, a walk in the woods during a study break might make your workload feel more manageable. If you live in an urban area, where’s the nearest park? Or perhaps a walk down a tree-lined street will provide enough of a nature fix to get you through the next chapter or lecture.
We hope you are finding some semblance of normalcy, calm, and healthy productivity during these challenging times. If you are seeking additional support, we are always here to help. We would be happy to brainstorm with you more stress relief strategies that suit your learning needs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!