Students are racing to finish off the school year successfully. With AP tests and state-mandated testing, students are feeling stressed and need to find a way to decompress. In fact, according to a survey done by the American Psychological Association (APA), high school students report that their stress levels during the school year exceed 5.8 on a 10 point scale. Despite the never-ending schoolwork, we do need to find time to escape from the school responsibilities. Below are our ten favorite tips and tricks to deal with the end-of-school stress. We aren’t just recommending them. We tried them!
Yoga: To many, yoga is stereotypical labeled as the activity busy moms do with their friends once a week at the local recreation center. Yoga is actually an extremely beneficial activity for people of all ages, in fact, professional athletes tend to partake in yoga in order to improve their balance and maintain a steady core. In an interview, Mike Adams, a safety in the NFL said he does yoga twice a week in order “to stretch and release tension and muscular tightness in my hamstrings, lower back, chest, and abdomen.” Not only is yoga a great way to keep your body flexible and in shape, it also allows your mind to relax and escape from the everyday busy lifestyle of a teenager. I would know from personal experience. Every other Tuesday, my soccer team and I attend a yoga session outdoors. Similar to Adams, the sole purpose of these yoga sessions is for recovery after a long weekend of soccer, but we all use it as a relaxing escape from the loads of homework we have waiting for us to do.
Keri Horine, a member of the class of 2021 at Middletown High School, participates in these yoga sessions as well. She said, “I always look forward to going to yoga after long, hard weekends of soccer. It makes me feel better and relaxed, and it’s always so fun to do it with my team.”
Yoga is also extremely convenient, and you definitely don’t need to be an expert to start. Simply find an easy yoga video for beginners, get your work out clothes on and grab a towel or yoga mat. Here are two different different beginners yoga videos you can try to help you get started!
Go for run/ walk: I know exactly what you’re thinking, who would ever want to put their body through more strenuous work after a long and tiring day of school? While this is valid argument, taking a light jog after school is actually much more beneficial for maintaining stress levels than you might think. According to an article on Psychology Today, “Exercise lifts mood and reduces stress. It can strengthen circadian rhythms, promoting daytime alertness and helping bring on sleepiness at night.”
Similar to yoga, going on a light run or even just a walk around the neighborhood after school can help take a calmer approach on the rest of the day. I tend to run three miles after school with my friend, Anna Choudhary, a few days during the school week and definitely don’t feel nearly as overwhelmed when having to tackle my two hours of homework later that night.
Choudhary, a member of the class of 2021, said, “Running allows us time to reflect back on the stressful parts of the day and put them into perspective.” She also said that, “It allows us time to do something we enjoy before going straight to our stressful homework.”
Not only that, but running or walking after school allows to keep your body healthy and in shape. Whether you are an avid runner, or prefer the slow pace of walking, I assure you that you will definitely feel the benefits from this. If you need help getting started with this great habit, I recommend using the training app called “Couch to 5k.” This fantastic app helps to create a workout plan so you can run a relaxing 5k (3.1 miles) within just nine weeks!
Get to sleep earlier: It’s a fact that sleep keeps your body healthy and working properly, but being well-rested also keeps your stress levels at a minimum. Experts recommend that people aim for 7–9 hours of sleep a night, depending on age and other factors. I think we can all admit that even on a good day, we probably aren’t getting between 7-9 hours of sleep. According to an article by the National Sleep Foundation, “If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones.” In more simplistic terms, the less you sleep, the more stressed you become. Here’s some tips on how you can adjust your body to an earlier bedtime.
Take Melatonin, an all natural sleep aid which allows for adjustment of sleep cycles.
Use a sound machine. The white noise produced by sound machines block distracting noises and produce soothing sounds that are relaxing and help to induce sleep.
Try using essential oils, like lavender, to wind down before bed. Lavender can be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, and restlessness
Pamper yourself: I think we can all agree that the four-year journey through high school definitely has its bumps in the road, especially at the end of the year. Whether it be the late nights or the early morning tutoring sessions, we don’t always have time to dress up for school. I recommend, that at least once a week you give yourself enough time in the evening to treat yourself. Try using a face mask, light a candle, take a hot bath, or simply do something fun and different with your look for the next day of school.
After trying this out for myself, I found that I felt much less overwhelmed heading into the school day. Feeling my best from the minute I woke up lifted my self-esteem and allowed me to take on the day with confidence.
Make your favorite snack: On a long, hard, and stressful day it’s always nice to calm down with a special meal. By making your favorite food, one can feel comforted by having a nice snack to settle down with.
“If you’re stressed and you have something exciting to eat, it releases all that stress and let’s me be happy,” Julie Walker, member of the class of 2021, said when asked why she enjoys having her favorite food on a tough day.
Comfort food is defined as “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.” While your favorite “comfort food” could temporarily make you feel better, it’s important that you are aware of the calories you could be consuming. In fact, excessive eating is proven to be a habit caused by stress. By being smart with what you eat and consuming the right food, food can help to reduce stress.
Instead of grabbing for my favorite bag of chips after school, I decided to grab for an avocado instead. I looked up and easy avocado toast tutorial, and whipped up a healthy, filling, and yummy snack in just five minutes. Not only did the snack taste great, but also helped to keep my stress at a minimum, as avocados are filled with potassium, a vital mineral that keeps your blood pressure low. Check out this easy avocado toast recipe and try it for yourself!
Write thoughts in a journal: You may remember having a diary when you were younger, where you wrote down all of your not-so-important problems and harmful secrets. While as a teenager you probably aren’t doing this anymore, getting back into your old diary writing habits could help you more than you may think.
According to an article written by the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help you to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression.
After having had a frustrating day at school, I decided to try putting out all of those frustrations on a piece of paper. While it may seem silly at first, getting out my thoughts and feelings was actually a great way to get passed the tough parts of my day and helped me to keep moving forward. I recommend taking just ten minutes away from you after-school routine to try this one for yourself!
Take a nap: After school, I always try and rest in order to feel refreshed before beginning my homework. I tend to feel pretty drowsy after seven hours of lectures and hard work, especially on days when I have extracurricular activities. While many might think this is an act of pure laziness, taking a quick “cat nap” can help keep your mind focused on homework.
Sophomore Grace Coccagna tends do this regularly. “I think that taking naps helps me to have a much needed break and feel refreshed. As a high school student, I wake up early every morning. By taking a quick nap, I can find the energy needed to finish any homework I have,” she said
The article, “The Overwhelming Benefits of Power Napping,” states that, “Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning.” It also explains how, “…you can make yourself more alert, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning with a nap.”
So next time your work overload seems to be piling up, try taking a quick nap before tackling the long hours ahead of you.
Coloring books: If you’re like me, the first image you think of when you hear the word “coloring,” is definitely not the prettiest or most satisfying sight. You might be remembering those wonderful art pieces you created as a kid, with all of the colors “outside of the lines.” While you might feel slightly nostalgic doing this stress-relieving activity, the two are most definitely not the same. Instead, try coloring in an adult coloring book. These coloring books are definitely a step higher from what you did when you were a kid. Filled with intricate designs of animals, mandalas, or patterns, these coloring books help take your artistic coloring ability to the next level.
Not only is this activity simply fun to do, but it also helps to keep you calm, happy, and relaxed. According to a research study conducted by college students at Lake Superior University, students experienced a significant reduction in signs of stress and depression after coloring pre-drawn patterns. I personally find that coloring these fun patterns puts my mind in a meditative state. So next time you’re feeling too overwhelmed to do homework in PREP, try coloring for forty-five minutes before taking on the next half of the day. Check out this cheap coloring book on Amazon if you’re interested in trying this great stress-reducing activity. You can also find adult coloring books at Walmart and Five Below.
Watch your favorite show after school: Although it tends to get a bad rep, watching television can distract your thoughts, allowing your mind to relax and reduce anxiety. People with recurrent panic attacks have said that by watching their favorite show, they instantly feel more relieved.
“I think that by watching my favorite show after school, it gets my mind off of all of the stress that is caused [by school] and the massive workload that is waiting for me,” said sophomore Sierra Rossman.
While this is a great way to treat yourself after a long day of school, don’t make your thirty minute show break into a two hour binge session! Try limiting yourself to one show a day after school, and then get to working.
Work outside or in a clean environment: With summer just around the corner, the temperature is slowly creeping into the eighties with each passing day. If you’re like me, you can’t wait for the bell to ring at 2:15 so you can walk outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Don’t want it to stop there? Try taking your homework outside with you. I find that being outside and enjoying the warm weather makes homework much less painful to complete. The outside environment personally keeps me both relaxed and focused. Vitamin D is also a proven stress reducer. According to an article discussing how vitamins help with anxiety and panic attacks, “Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked with anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).” So whether you want to blast your favorite summer tunes, or just enjoy the nature around you, working outside gives you a little taste of summer that helps to motivate you through your long list of things to do.
You can also trying giving your room a quick cleaning before beginning your work. I find that working in an organized and decluttered environment helps me to stay focused on my work and not the mess around me.