Stress Less


Nicky Price on how to manage when the Big ‘S’ gets the best of you.

Now that we’re well into the second half of the semester, the stress is on. Assessments are starting to pile up, exams are on the horizon, and most of us are looking at our workloads with a reasonable amount of horror. You can practically feel the stress in the air when walking into class, and I’ve already seen three different people in tears this week. So, in the name of survival, here are some of my tried and true tips for dealing with stress. I’ve split this into two categories:

Management: For keeping stress levels down

One of the best methods I have for dealing with day-to-day stress is enjoying the small things in life, as cliché as that might sound. Whether it’s treating yourself to something you enjoy or taking some time out, it’s something that takes little time and effort but can help keep you grounded. For example, take 15 minutes to sit down and enjoy your morning coffee rather than gulping it down on your way to class, or if there’s a bakery you like that makes cupcakes to die for, treat yourself to one on the way home at the end of the week. You get the gist: Take a hot bath, go for a walk, buy yourself some flowers – whatever it is that makes you feel good. Giving yourself something to look forward to can help to break up that seemingly endless cycle of stress.

If stress is something you deal with regularly, you may find it helpful to make yourself what I like to call a ‘care kit’. Grab a box, and fill it with items that help you relax—be it photos, comic books, an old soft toy, colouring in pages, books, chocolate, travel mementos—anything that relieves feelings of stress. Alternatively, you could create an electronic version. Make a playlist of videos that make you laugh, download some of your favourite movies or save some of your favourite songs or albums. Hell, make a blog specifically for reblogging things that make you happy. What’s great about a care kit is that you can adapt it to suit you. And whether you open it once a year, once a month or once a week, it can be helpful to have something to fall back on when you’re too tired and stressed to think about how to cope.

Crisis: For when you reach breaking point

I think it’s safe to say that everyone reading this will have at least once in their life reached breaking point when it comes to stress. When everything seems to go to shit all at once; when you reach your limit and seem to forget how to function for a little while. And that’s okay. Whether your meltdown comes in the form of crying into your pillow for a few hours, feeling completely numb or disappearing into your room for a day or two, I hope the list of ideas below will help you get through it:

  • Put on a feel-good film – think Disney, or a classic comedy

  • Be around people, even if you don’t think it will help

  • Pull the curtains open, turn the lights on and open a window

  • Wrap yourself in a blanket, the heavier the better

  • Go for a walk or a run

  • Write a list of the things bothering you, and then rip it up or burn it

  • Take a short nap

  • Make yourself a hot drink

  • Have a hot bath or a long hot shower

  • Blast your favourite music

  • Write a letter to someone you care about (or someone you’re mad at)

  • Do some drawing or colouring

  • Binge watch an entire series on Netflix

  • If you enjoy the sound of rain, listen to rainymood.com

  • Watch cute cat or dog videos

  • Hug something, whether it be a friend, an animal a pillow or yourself

  • Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while

Finally, remember, this will pass. It’s only one moment in your life, and you will get through it. There is always a way to fix things and you are always stronger than you think you are. There are people who care about you, there is no shame in getting help and even if you think that what you’re facing is the end of the world, I promise it won’t be. If you make a mistake, that’s okay – mistakes are proof that you’re trying, and it’s how we learn. And, finally, don’t forget that it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be scream, to be stressed or angry or tired or numb. You don’t have to be happy all the time. What you’re feeling isn’t the way you’ll feel forever, it’s just how you’re feeling now. Just hold on, keep moving forward, and things will work out. I promise.

Available services:

Apps:

  • MoodPanda: Lets you measure your daily moods and track the scores over time

  • Smiling Mind: Provides relaxation techniques and meditation exercises

  • CalmKeeper: Helps manage anxiety and panic attacks by providing immediate access to tools that help you cope

Websites:

  • Moodgym: Based on cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy

  • SPARX: An e-therapy 3D fantasy game environment that teaches the player skills to manage symptoms of depression (developed by Auckland University students)

  • This Way Up: Provides mini courses for stress management, worry, sadness, and shyness, with self-tests to monitor progress

  • The Quiet Place Project: Provides multiple services including a meditative exercise, a place to vent, and an exercise known as “the dawn room” – I personally swear by this one

  • The Lowdown: Has a wide variety of resources for depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, family violence and more

Helplines:

  • The Lowdown (text 5626)

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline* (call 0508 828 865)

  • The Anxiety Helpline* (call 0800 269 4389)

  • The Depression Helpline (call 0800 111 757, text: 4202)

  • A general talk service* (call or text 1737)

  • Lifeline (call 0800 543 354)

  • OUTline, an LGBTQIA+ service (call 0800 688 5463)

  • Alcohol Drug Helpline (call 0800 787 797)

  • Samaritans (call 0800 726 666)

*Operated by trained psychologists or counsellors