- Yoga. Yoga is a form of active meditation. Through the close presence with our body movements and breathing, it is supposed to help us find tranquility in the present moment. My personal favorite form of yoga is Bikram yoga-- it has 26 set poses in a room that is 104 F and 60% humidity. Through all of the sweating it removes the toxins from our bodies. Also, since it is so hot and the poses are so intense, it leaves no option for the mind to wander. Yoga is also a great activity because we can do it all year long, whether it is 80 degrees or 0. And for those who don't find a 104F class appealing, there are many other Hatha yogas in lower, more comfortable temperatures.
- Exercise. Whenever I bring up exercise as a way for people to loosen up, they often cringe their face at me. Exercise has this stigma that it has to be painful, long, and heart wrenching. While getting that heart rate accelerated is an important aspect of exercise, it does not have to be done in a distressing way. Simply going for a 20 minute jog, riding a stationary bike, and even lifting weights for a short while is enough to get the endorphins flowing and make us feel better. And the best part about exercising it that once it becomes a routine in our lives, it becomes addicting. I'm serious. The after-effect of working out is good for our bodies in countless ways, and if you do happen to try out some HIIT, you'll be so out of breath during the workout you won't be able to think about all the school work that is bogging you down.
- Meditation. Meditation is by far the hardest one on the list here. People think (ha-ha that's funny to say when we are talking about meditation) that meditation is just sitting on the ground and day dreaming. That is so not the case. It is actually the exact opposite of day dreaming. It requires listening to our breathing, feeling the rise and fall of our chest, and not moving, because that is an attachment, and therefore not stillness for our minds. There are many different ways to meditate, but the most basic one that I like is sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and my spine completely straight. I breath in as much as I can and hold it for a beat before exhaling super slowly. If I start to think about school or family or friends, I let it go, I notice it, and then I return to listening to my breathing. I listen to other things as well, such as the padding of feet walking by my bedroom or the clatter of silverware downstairs, always returning to my breath. Starting out is hard, so I always recommend trying 5 to 10 minutes and then increasing the time to 20 and even 30 minutes as it becomes easier to reach that state of presence. Many of us make excuses for meditating, even I do, but even a 5 minute meditation break does us good to remind us where we are in our life and what place we should always return to in the midst of craziness. And I am pretty sure most people can spare 5 minutes by just turning away from their phones or computers a bit earlier. Oh and one more point about meditating-- there should be no background noise or music playing because that itself is a distraction from our breathing (the only exception is if you decide to use mantras for your routine instead of focusing on breathing, but that is entirely different than songs because the mantras are in Sanskrit).
- Foods that help ease the soul. I wanted to list some foods and drinks that can help relax the mind and body. While eating these foods and others can help us relax, it is important to remember that eating should not become attached to emotions and an outlet for our stress because that is not addressing the root of the problem. Eating healthy should be combined with an activity such as exercise and meditation to address the root of our anxieties. Also, while I list foods to eat, cooking also can be a way to de-stress and certainly is for me.
- Green tea
- Chamomile tea (I have this great brand that is Chamomile lavender-- it tastes amazing!)
- Have some raw (unsalted) nuts. I like almonds.
- Have some raw veggies (if you like hummus, hummus make a great dip! Just make sure to buy an organic hummus with minimal ingredients and no additives, or if you are really feeling up to it make your own with this yummy recipe! Personally, nothing makes me feel better than having some raw carrots)
- Eat fruit. Fruit is refreshing. Light foods will help the most in relaxing. Think berries or maybe some apple slices with almond butter.
- Make a salad with lots of veggies (no meat) and healthy olive oil-lemon dressing. Simple and satisfying.
6. Don't make excuses for not having time for these things. Meditation can be as long as we want. Even 1-2 minutes long. Just sit on your bedroom floor with your eyes closed and focus on being present and conscious. Aware of our breath, our body, and letting go of any emerging thoughts.
7. Reconnect with family and friends. Remember to give yourself a day off. Watch a movie or go out on a walk with a friend. These simple activities can help release tension.
9. Establish a sleep routine. I cannot stress enough how important sleep is. Without a good sleep routine and lack of sleep, cortisol (a stress hormone) sky rockets and this is not good for growth, muscle development, or weight maintenance.
10. Thank someone. Often when we get stressed we snap at others because we are looking for an outlet to our tension. Nothing is more gratifying then saying thank you to someone even if we don't want to. That desire to not say thank you is just our egos. We can conquer it and make someone else's day brighter as well. There is always someone to be fortunate for who has looked out for our best interests that week, month, or year. A handwritten or verbal thank-you is the best way to genuinely do this.
11. Write. For me writing releases my stress and makes me forget the time. When I journal or even write these blog posts I am filled with a sense of fulfillment for helping others and releasing my thoughts. It is so rewarding to focus on the present instead of dwelling on what will or what was.
So that is what I could come up with for my list! I am sure there are many other ways to de-stress from school, but I thought that the ones I stated above are the most helpful because they bring us back to the present moment, the only moment we ever really have. As finals and college decisions approach, I really hope this article will be helpful to students and even adults.