Six things you can do right now to ease your stress, plus six habits you can (and should) develop to keep your stress levels in check for a long time to come
Junior and senior year of high school are pretty hectic. You’re probably thinking about college and scholarships, wondering what to major in and do in the future, and trying to balance academics, sports, extracurriculars, friends, family—not to mention, attempting to get enough sleep! It can be hard to balance it all. However, finding ways to reduce your stress can help you be happier and even more productive. De-stressing will also enable you to enjoy the present; junior and senior year are exciting as well as challenging, and they’ll be over before you know it.
Short-term stress relief
- Go for a 20-minute walk or run. It’s an excellent way to clear your head and process your thoughts. I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts while doing so. (If you haven’t listened to Serial yet, this is the time!)
- Take a power nap! Crawl your stressed self into bed for a 20-minute cat nap, and you’ll wake up feeling more in control. Naps help you be more alert and improve cognitive functioning.
- Listen to your favorite song. Take a few minutes to allow yourself to completely zone out and enjoy good music.
- Make a list. Whip out some good old-fashioned notebook paper and write down everything you need to do today or in the next few days, because “the secret to improving productivity and reducing stress is all about making effective lists.” I make separate lists: one for homework assignments, one for extracurricular responsibilities, and an “overflow” list.
- Clean your room! Make sure you’re working in a clutter-free area and that your bedroom is a clean space where you go to rest and rejuvenate. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, “Just sitting in a cluttered room can create stress. . . . Living in a cluttered home can create subtle, constant, low-grade stress.”
- Do some yoga. Yoga is a really peaceful, simple way to check in on yourself and work on decreasing stress levels. There are dozens of yoga apps (like Simply Yoga FREE) and online videos available to guide you through a short but effective practice.
Long-term stress relief
- Plan ahead! Seriously, I’m begging you. It will make your life so much easier, especially senior year. Starting in junior year, map out your plan of attack for college. Decide when to research schools, when to have a “short list” of top 10 or so colleges completed, when you’ll take standardized tests, when your essay will be finished, and when you need to apply. Make sure you physically write down these goals, set reminders on your phone, and don’t procrastinate!
- Seek support. Family, friends, and even teachers can be great support systems during these crazy years. Don’t get so wrapped up in everything you have to do that you forget to spend time with people you care about, because it can be a huge stress-reliever.
- Exercise! If you don’t play a sport, consider joining a team or establishing a habit of exercising for 30 minutes or more a day. It really is a fantastic way to de-stress, because “exercise thwarts depression and anxiety by enhancing the body's ability to respond to stress.” According to the Mayo Clinic, it can even help you sleep better too.
- Prioritize. This is both a short-term and a long-term way to reduce stress. Short-term prioritizing includes things like making lists, but long-term prioritizing is a beneficial habit. Routinely create a schedule to use your time more effectively, and try to complete tasks in order of urgency.
- Make sure you get enough sleep! This goes back to prioritizing—make sure to leave time to sleep, because “teens who sleep less than eight hours on a school night are more likely to report experiencing symptoms of stress,” says the American Psychological Association.
- Be passionate. I think it’s imperative to find something you love and set aside time for that activity every day by prioritizing. For example, I make sure I finish all my homework by a certain time so I can spend 30 minutes writing or reading before bed. Identifying a passion will give you something to look forward to and help reduce stress!