College is a whirlwind. It seems like every day there is something new to worry about that gets piled on top of other things I’ve already been worrying about: law school applications that are due by the end of December, final exams in all of my classes, and working on campus as a campus housing community adviser while taking 20 credit hours, to name a few. Plus, I make an effort to stay up on what’s happening in the world, which of course only adds to my mountain of stress.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve just hit my limit and I can’t handle any more, but then I remember that I need to calm down, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I’m capable of doing what I need to do. I know that the stress that comes with being a college student is one of the most significant factors that has led to a decline in my social-emotional wellness. It’s easy to tell when I've taken a massive hit. I get very irritable and my brain ends up completely shutting down for hours, making it so that I can’t focus on anything more than a 15-second TikTok video. This can be extremely detrimental during a busy time like finals, when every possible studying moment is precious.
Here are a few things that I’ve started doing to manage my stress and improve my social-emotional wellness. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it includes some of the things that I find to be the most helpful and try to engage in daily.
I set a routine.
One of the easiest ways for me to manage my social-emotional wellness is to block almost everything out on my calendar – and I make sure to stick to it. Eventually, it just becomes a habit and I don’t have to check my calendar. By doing the same thing at a specified time on a particular day of the week, I always know that I’ll have time for any related activities. Of course, things will always pop up that I won’t be able to schedule, and that’s okay. As long as I have the majority of my life scheduled out and set to a routine, I can usually keep my stress levels pretty low.
I take time for myself.
Taking time for myself might include just taking a break and scrolling through social media, reading a book, playing a game, or anything that doesn’t involve work of any kind. Usually, I’ll take about 15-30 minutes to myself, and then I’ll return to my work. Sometimes I like to follow the Pomodoro Technique, where I work for about three periods of 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between, and then after the three periods I take a 20-minute break. This method allows me to do those self-care things relatively frequently, which helps keep my stress levels down.
I get enough sleep.
I’m one of those people who absolutely cannot function on less than seven hours of sleep. Most nights, I get about nine hours, which seems to work for me. If I don’t end up getting enough sleep, I get incredibly crabby, super stressed, and I’m almost guaranteed to have a terrible day. All of these things put me on a downward spiral, and sometimes it’s hard to get out of it. To help with getting enough sleep and ensuring that I’ll have a good day, I purposely schedule my classes later in the day. This way, I can get as much sleep as I need, even when I have to stay up late at night cramming for an exam or putting the finishing touches on a project.
I ask for help.
I've found that communicating with others is essential in maintaining my social-emotional wellness, because getting support is one of the biggest keys to staying on track. It does me no good to sit around on a stressful day feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I can go to my friends, coworkers, and family and let them know that I need a little help. This usually ends up making my life so much easier and my wellbeing almost instantly improves.
I push myself to think positively.
I don’t always have the most positive attitude, but lately I’ve been making an effort to change my mindset. By thinking positively, I’m stepping out of my box a little bit and putting some good energy in the world. I know how cliché this sounds, but I’m noticing that if I think positively, positive things will usually happen. I’ve faced some pretty big challenges in my role as a community adviser. Due to COVID-19, community advisors aren’t allowed to physically interact with our residents, have house events, or even see each other’s faces without a mask on. When the whole goal is to build a community, these limitations can be discouraging. But thinking negatively about the situation doesn’t help me or my residents, so I make the best out of the situation. It’s not easy to do, but I now I see this challenge as a positive experience that can push me to think outside the box.
Without any of these measures, my life would be a mess and I would be walking around in a constant state of stress, anger, and a whole lot of other emotions all grouped together. But by trying to do each of these things a little bit every day, I can make my social-emotional wellness better for the rest of my life.
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