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 tips
Sometimes all you need is a breather before diving back in. If your stress isn't overwhelming you but you need to let off some steam, try these easy methods of stress relief.
- Go for a 20-minute walk or run: This is an excellent way to clear your head and process your thoughts. I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts while doing so, or listen to some upbeat music to match your running to.
- 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. There's a huge power in music to change your mood.
- 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 and online videos available to guide you through a short but effective practice.
Long-term stress relief
If your stress is a little more rooted in your daily life and you can't seem to shake it, then you may need some more long-term solutions. Here are some suggestions for ways to combat the overwhelming stress you're feeling.
- Plan ahead: Seriously, I’m begging you. It will make your life so much easier, especially senior year. Starting 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; the American Psychological Association (APA) says that “exercise thwarts depression and anxiety by enhancing the body's ability to respond to stress.” 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 not getting enough sleep can lead to more stress, poor grades, bad mental health, and more.
- 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!
Dealing with stress isn’t easy, but there are a ton of simple ways you can combat anxiety and stress caused by overwhelming responsibilities for both short-term and long-term relief. Use these methods interchangeably in a way that works for you and your schedule. Not everyone’s methods of stress relief will be the same, but trying different solutions is key to finding healthy coping mechanisms.
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