November 18, 2015

Stress Management: Taking It One Break at a Time

By Rheagan Rizio, USC Student, Be Well USC blogger

Coping with stress has never been a big issue for me. Expending lots of energy worrying about something in the future has always sounded like a huge waste of my time, because the time I would spend worrying about a potentially stressful event is time that I could spend preparing for it instead. When faced with something that could potentially cause anxiety, say a midterm or final, I work very hard to prepare for it, but I also tend to take lots of breaks in my time spent studying to give myself time to refocus and improve my mental concentration.

When preparing for anything important, I always allocate time during my day to exercise. My favorite type of exercise during times like these is yoga; my mind is blissfully clear while I’m on my mat, and any thoughts I may have about what I need to accomplish after class are forgotten during my hour and a half in the studio. However, sometimes I don’t have an hour and a half to take away from studying, and if this is the case I have many other exercise options to choose from. I’ll take a zumba class, I’ll run, if I’m really pressed for time I’ll do a 30-minute HIIT workout: for me, it doesn’t matter what type of exercise I do, so long as I do something to take my mind off of my work for a while. I always follow up my workouts with another great stress-reducer: a hot shower. It doesn’t have to be long (because we are in a drought): in fact, oftentimes I don’t like my showers to be too long because I begin to be aware of the time (and water) that’s being wasted. However, no matter the length of my shower, I always give myself around 5 minutes to just stand under the water and completely clear my mind of everything. It’s a very brief, but much-needed, break from the world.

No matter how quick I try to be, exercising and showering together usually take at least an hour, so needless to say the breaks that I take afterwards are not that long. I try to take ten minutes or so out of every hour to relax, and when I’m alone I will usually read part of a book, listen to music, or just get up and stretch if I’ve been sitting in one position for a long time. When I study with friends, our breaks together usually consist of watching YouTube videos or playing music and having impromptu dance parties. When I get really drained and my break isn’t enough time to re-orient myself, I’ll set my alarm for a half-hour from then and I’ll take a nap. I’m one of those people who absolutely can’t work when I get too tired, so frequent naps and enough sleep are really important for me, and I wake up feeling much more refreshed and I have more energy to continue doing my work.

After finishing all my work I’ll also try to do something relaxing before I go to bed as well, to help myself unwind and get to sleep more quickly. It can be anything from reading my book or writing in my journal to just laying in bed staring at the ceiling, as long as it’s calming and doesn’t involve using electronics. Typically I’ll take about 20 minutes to do whatever activity I’ve decided on, and when my time is up I’ll turn off the light and go to sleep.

This time of year can be extremely stressful: finals are looming ever closer, but the semester isn’t quite over yet so we still have other concerns and responsibilities before we can focus on them. Take advantage of our upcoming Thanksgiving break to reorient yourself and prepare for the next few weeks, because once those are over you have four weeks to relax and get away from school completely. Study hard, take breaks, try to save time in your day for something relaxing and enjoyable, and as always, Fight On!