Stress Less: Not Just a Week

One thing that all high school students are familiar with is stress: the stress of grades, extracurriculars, and social life. While there is no perfect solution that suits every student, Stress Less Week, held the week before midterms, is a good place to start in Cooper. 

Throughout the course of the week, Active Minds leaders set up many activities to help people manage the stress leading up to exams that are 20% of midterm grades. Each day had a theme: Marvelous Monday, Power of a Puppy, Wellness Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, and Fun Friday. There were activities such as a mood meter table, a yoga session, and a limbo contest, as well as yoga, ice cream, pancakes, and service dogs. As you might expect, the dogs and the food were the biggest hits! 

What does this show us? Well, there are many different ways to manage stress. For example, interacting with pets can help bring down the stress hormone cortisol along with reducing high blood pressure. And while studies show that in 2020, only 72.9% of students aged 12-19 ate breakfast, there is a lot of evidence that it is easier to concentrate and stay calm when you have eaten. Of course, there is no way to completely take away stress from our lives, but small changes like this can make a big difference. 

So, how do we take the lessons learned in Stress Less Week and apply them to our lives? One strategy does not work for everyone. The trick is to keep trying new things until you find what works best for you. With that in mind, here are just a few simple ideas on how to relieve stress. If they work for you, great! You might need to change them up a little or hunt around for different ones. 

  • Get outside! Take a walk, or just sit in nature with a book or some homework. 
  • Play a mindfulness exercise or some music on your phone. 
  • Sit alone in a quiet space for a few minutes, focusing on your breath. If your mind wanders, just gently bring it back. 
  • Set a 5-minute timer and just write whatever you feel. It doesn’t matter what you write, just don’t stop! 
  • Exercise. It doesn’t have to be intense, just something that you enjoy. 
  • Set aside technology for a few minutes. 

Afterwards, notice how you feel. Calmer? More focused? You might notice that even taking five minutes out of your day to relax makes things a lot easier. So, here’s a challenge: next time you’re bored or feel stressed and reach automatically for your phone, try something from this list instead. If you make a habit of using effective strategies to regulate your feelings, you’ll be feeling less stress- not just for a week, but for the entire year!