CollegeHealthWellness

After a long day of classes, work, socializing, and just dealing with life in general (especially in college), finding the perfect way to unwind can be harder than it seems. Most people turn to Netflix and munch on a big bag of chips, however that type of vegetation can actually be more detrimental to your mental and physical health than you think and cause you more stress in the long run. Here are eight healthier ways to relax.

Go For a Walk

Get away from your home/dorm room and find a patch of nature. Find a bench or a tree to lean on and just breathe in the nature around you. Learning to engage your senses in a natural environment can relax your body and mind. Do not spend this time on your phone – disconnect from your busy life for a while, at least ten minutes, and clear your mind from your daily responsibilities and instead focus on your breathing and senses.

Take a Nap

While this might be more of a mid-day way to unwind, naps can really help turn around your stressed or unhappy mood. It can help rejuvenate the body and clear the mind. Take a maximum twenty minute catnap (nothing more than 30 minutes!) or else you’ll fall into deep sleep and feel groggy.

Journal

Some people find it relaxing to write down their day. Whether you’re writing down what made your day difficult or triumphant, it’s been found that journaling is a positive way to deconstruct your day. Lisa Kaplin, PsyD, is a life coach and she suggests journaling as a method of stress management. It can be multiple pages of pouring out your soul, or just a line or two about your day. However, if it becomes more of a task than a reliever to maintain a journal, skip it; it could just create more stress to keep doing it if it’s not something you have your heart in.

Make a To-Do List (Or Any List)

Some people find that a helpful way to destress is to prepare themselves for the next day or the rest of the week. If time management is difficult for you take a few minutes to write down what homework or tasks you need to finish this week, errands you need to run, groceries you need to get, etc. Writing your must-dos down forces you to get organized, but also it allows you to put a pause on the present and whatever is stressing you out right now. Having everything written down is a physical way to download information you’re trying to remember inside your head onto paper. You can even make a list of what is stressing you out, and that will create a real space to figure why something is stressing you out, and how you can fix it.

Do Some Breathing Exercises

As silly as this might sound initially, sitting or lying down and focusing on your breathing can really help clear your mind and help you think more clearly. Taking deep breaths slows down the heart rate and calms the body. Focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, your stomach rising and falling, and concentrate on your body and how it feels, ignoring outside distractions.

Stretch your Body

Stretching, or even doing some light yoga, before bed relaxes the body and can clear the mind of an overly stressful day. Regardless of your level of yoga or flexibility, stretching can help with relieving stress throughout the body. Many people carry stress in their shoulders and backs, causing them to develop sloped shoulders and poor posture. Fitness Magazine and Shape both have some good stretches to help with these problems.

Have a Cup of Tea

It’s been found that having a hot drink can make you friendlier, according to The Guardian. An experiment done by the University of Colorado Boulder found that the participants who held a warm drink rather than a cold one tended to have a warmer personality and reacted better when introduced to someone. Along with this, the process of preparing a warm drink, and then holding and drinking it can help relax your mind and help you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Talk to a Friend

Regardless if you’re more of an extrovert or introvert, talking to a friend or someone you’re comfortable with can help you unwind. Going out to get a cup of coffee, fruit smoothie, or even staying in and just chatting on your couch can be one of the best ways to help you stop worrying about your day and let go of whatever is bothering you. You could talk to them to work through your stresses, or just use that time with them to focus on anything else going on in your life and put a pause on your stresses. If you need a distraction from your own stress it can also be nice to refocus your attention and ask them how they are doing.

The Daily Mind has a list of 100 ways to relax and unwind at the end of a long day. The best thing is to find what works for you. While one person might find that hitting up the gym is her best way to unwind,  that might not really be your style, and that’s okay! You might find that rereading a favorite book is your best way to calm down. Another person’s might be meditation. Find whatever works for you and relax for the rest of the evening.

Image: Jay Mantri

Skills

We’ve all been there – the weekend finally rolls around but you still have items on your To-Do list and you can’t shake the nagging feeling that you should be doing more. Whether you’re in school, working at a company, or self-employed, there’s always a way to feel like you could be filling your weekends up with work instead of fun (or anything but work). But choosing to let your academic or professional career dominate your life might not be the smartest, healthiest, or most productive way to live.

It turns out that over-working yourself can lead to a higher risk of depression, a disrupted sleep schedule, extreme eye strain, and loads of unnecessary stress. So as tempting as it may be to lock yourself in Friday though Sunday, reconsider that decision using these seven tips.

  1. Prioritize your To-Do list. If your To-Do list is still full by Friday afternoon, take ten minutes to prioritize the items. Consider what must be done that day, and what can wait until Monday. Break your big list down into a few small ones labeled by day, and if you absolutely have to get something work-related done on the weekend limit yourself to just two items. Otherwise, write them in for Monday or Tuesday.
  2. Make plans with someone. Force yourself to step away from work by making plans with another person. The more pressure you put on yourself to fulfill a promise, the more likely you are to follow through with it. Text or call a friend you haven’t seen in a while (and preferably not someone you work with or the conversation might steer back to work and trigger stress) and set a time to walk around outside or grab a meal. You’ll be less tempted to sit inside if someone else is depending on you. Set a specific time and confirm your hangout near the end of the work or school week.
  3. Have something to look forward to. If you don’t feel like seeing other people, you should still find something that you can look forward to. Block out time during the weekend to go to a concert, try a new restaurant, get some errands done, or go to the park and walk a few laps. Actually write down the time and activity you’re going to do in your notebook or iCal.
  4. Pre-schedule emails and posts. Technology is a necessary evil. Luckily there are ways to schedule emails and posts ahead of time so that you aren’t always logging-in to hit “send.” Carve out an extra hour each week to get ahead on writing emails that need to be sent the following week, and pre-write Tweets, posts, and messages that can be scheduled ahead of time.
  5. Figure out your stress-triggers. Think super honestly about the things that stress you out the most. Maybe it’s having a looming deadline for that term paper, or wanting to rehearse your business pitch a few more times. Whatever those triggers may be, address them and write them down in a safe place. Once they’ve been written down you’re less likely to forget what you need to do. Keeping tasks in your head instead of on paper is a great way to bottle up anxiety about potentially forgetting to do something. Be honest about what can wait, and what needs to get done now.
  6.  Turn off your technology. Press the off button. Shut your computer down. Turn off your phone or leave it at home. Even if it’s just for one afternoon, giving your eyes and fingers a break from the screen and keyboard will do you a world of good. It’s the simplest and most effective way to disconnect from your classmates, professors, and bosses. Limit yourself to checking your phone once a day, and shut it off again when you’re done.

It’s not always the easiest thing to step away from our professional and academic responsibilities, but giving yourself a break means you’re making a decision to invest into your long term health. The better care you take of your body and mind, the more stamina you’ll have to succeed.

Image: StokPic

Culture

It’s that time of year again. Love is in the air, but you don’t have to save it all for your significant other. Parks and Recreation had its ladies gather on February 13th for a “Galentine’s” Day celebration. While the show is a comedy and depicts the holiday in a comedic way, embracing the idea is a great opportunity for you to take a break from your love life to hang out with your girl friends. My friends decided that the day following Valentine’s Day worked better for us – it’s all about finding time to appreciate your friends and spend time together. Here are some ways you can enjoy your own celebration:

Brunch

Who doesn’t love brunch? You get a wide variety of food because of the hybrid morning/afternoon time. It’s the perfect time to catch up with your pals and hear what kind of Valentine’s Day they had. This is a good way to squeeze in some time with your friends if you’ve all been busy at work and haven’t had time to see each other. Save your breaks and take a long lunch!

Candy and Gifts

You don’t have to get your friends a gift. However, the day after Valentine’s Day provides a lot of sales. You can get a lot of discounted candy to munch on or a nice movie to watch with your friends.

Relaxation

Holidays can be stressful but hanging out with your friends never has to be. My friends and I are movie fiends, so we do romantic comedy movie marathons. If your significant other refuses to sit through Sleepless In Seattle with you, you can watch it with your friends the next day. Another option is a group spa day. Do what you like and enjoy yourself.

These are just a few ways you can celebrate. You can do a book trade or a shopping trip together. It doesn’t have to be just your friends – your coworkers or family members can join in! The point is to show love for everyone in your life.

Image: Flickr

HealthSkills

Every one of us has a tendency to get stressed or anxious; it is a part of human nature. A little bit of stress can actually be a great thing, but as humans we are usually inclined to over-indulge our emotions, even the nasty ones. However, appeasing one’s nerves can prove to be an arduous task. What I have found with my recent exploration of yoga, which I’m enrolled in at school as a gym credit, is that the “ocean breath” that yogis use when meditating and going through the motions of many of their moves is actually quite relaxing.

For example, I have struggled with being able to sleep on a normal schedule for a long time. I will stay up too late listening to music or watching television and those lyrics and story arcs plague my subconscious as I try to fall asleep. Recently, though, I started using Ujjahi breath – the formal term for “ocean breath”- to help focus myself and tire my mind late at night.

Ujjahi breath has been a staple in many forms of meditation and even in yogic positions of movement to help focus oneself on the task at hand. The reason it is nicknamed “ocean breath” is because the sound made when performing it resembles the sound of the crashing ocean waves. When practicing Ujjahi breath, inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose, and as the air passageway narrows and air moves the glottis, a rushing sound is created. There is no specific amount of time you are supposed to breathe for – leave that up to how much your diaphragm can take in and let out. However, try to make sure that your inhalations and exhalations are as equal in length as possible.

Ujjahi breath enables practitioners to maintain a set bodily rhythm, take in enough oxygen, as well as build up energy, and stay self-aware and grounded in yogic practices and in everyday life. So, if you feel as though you are struggling with keeping your cool, try this breath and hopefully begin to understand your body’s natural rhythms and needs.

Image: Unsplash