By Emma Taylor
It’s that time of year again. Exams approaching, mid-term results might be bringing you down, and you’re biting your nails with worry. Sometimes you find yourself dipping into your limited funds to buy some comfort food (chocolate works wonders when stressed). Assignments are coming at you from left, right and centre and you’re pretty sure that God is out to get you with the amount of work that is piling up. Stress is becoming the devil on your shoulder poking you with its sharp pitch fork.
There’s nothing worse than exam time stress in the winter. All you want to do is curl up with a nice cup of tea, a warm blanket and a good movie but the little devil called stress is taunting you. It’s hard. It’s hard to fight an invisible opponent that is attacking you when you’re least expecting it. But the sun always shines through the clouds in summer, Batman always saves Gotham and those who are lost always find their way home. Instead of catching the winter stress bug, here are a few suggestions to return your energy and get you back to feeling like the superhero you truly are.
Get some air!
Oxygen is our friend. It helps to clear the head and cool us down when a meltdown is on the horizon. There is nothing more relaxing or freeing than stepping away from your small corner in the library or your stuffy room and getting some fresh air. You don’t have to sit in the cold for an hour, but a short break in some fresh air will revive your senses. It’ll clear your head. And who knows, maybe you’ll even witness something extraordinary or hilarious once you remove yourself from the books and laptop for a few minutes. It never hurts to step away from the source of your stress.
Talk to a friend
Talking to someone solves most problems. It allows you to open up and release all the feelings of worry and fear that you normally keep bottled up in your chest. Let your words flow. Arrange a meeting with a good friend between lectures or at the weekend. Don’t be afraid of judgement. Your friend is likely to be going through the exact things you are. Stress is a universal problem. Even if you don’t talk about being stressed the relief of being with a friend will have you smiling for days. Friendship is the best remedy. There is nothing more relaxing than laughing with a good friend, or even just sharing gossip.
Go for a walk, run or swim
Just like stepping outside to get some air, going for a long walk, run or a swim will do wonders. Exercise releases energy and stress. It encourages the muscles to relax and it clears your mind. People often say that during times of hardship a long walk will help them control their emotions. Running leaves you relaxed, a little exhausted and releases dopamine. Dopamine has been proven to be a key factor in fighting stress and depression. Swimming is also great for escaping stress. The feeling of being weightless can be freeing, leaving you feeling relaxed and alive. I’d suggest floating on your back and using your legs to gently kick and keep you afloat for a while, it works wonders when it comes to relaxing.
Watch your favourite movie
Snuggle under that warm fluffy blanket, grab yourself a nice drink and a copy of your favourite movie. In times of distress and stress I have often found myself ending my hours of study with my favourite movies. Make a pillow fortress on your bed, maybe rope in one or two of your roommates and turn on that movie. It could be anything from Anchorman to The Avengers. Quote your favourite lines, get excited about your favourite scene coming up, and let the tears flow at that scene that never fails to take your breath away. If action movies or comedies don’t cheer you up a little, break out an old Disney movie. I cannot survive exam season without singing along dramatically to the soundtrack of Mulan. Which leads me to my next point…
Sing and dance
You don’t have to be Adele to sing your favourite song at the top of your lungs. Sing in the shower, in your room, in the kitchen while you’re making your food. Singing along to a good song can leave you laughing at your bad attempt at hitting those high notes or leave you feeling triumphant when you flawlessly pull off singing an old favourite. Dance. Don’t be shy, move those limbs and let loose. Stress often leaves us feeling tied down. Let those limbs be free.
Don’t over study
It’s hard to know when enough study has been done. Even harder to realize when you’ve spent too much time with that head in those books. Studying is needed for getting good grades but spending hours locked in your room with headphones on isn’t the best for your mental health and stress levels. Make a plan. Schedule time for one of the above activities, take hour long breaks for meals. Don’t hit the books when you wake up, allow yourself time to come to life. Try not to feel guilty if you don’t stick to a study plan, missing an hour of study because of a headache, distractions or just feeling miserable is not something to feel guilty about. You’re human. You need to live life outside of the exams. This can be hard to remember with the fear of failure hanging over your head but life is more than exams.
Exams are stressful. It doesn’t matter if this is your first exam season in UL or your last, exams affect everyone in one way or another. So look out for your friends. If they’re spending hours in the library or at home, take them outside. Remind them that there is a world outside of their anxieties and worries. Go for a meal in town or get a takeaway, arrange a movie night to combat the stress. Don’t brush off their worries as the usual exam “dramatics”. Lend them a hand and make sure they get some fresh air. Especially in winter time when the weather outside is enough to lower people’s spirits. Take some time to yourself and don’t forget to enjoy the little things. You’ll be back to defeating villains in no time, so smile, relax, breath. You can do this.