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Habits of Stress-Free Living for Students
By Joe DePalma
You're not alone! Just about every student in your school is stressed-out in one way or another. But no one has to stay that way. Adopt these "Habits of Stress-Free Living" and become happier and healthier right now!
Habit #0 - "Law of 21"
If you keep up with a new mindset and take action on it for 21 days in a row it will begin to become a habit. That's right-if you exercise, read, get up a little early, take vitamins, drink water, etc. for 21 straight days, your body and mind will become so accustomed to that behavior it will begin to accept it as a natural habit. That is when relaxing can become as easy as breathing.
Habit #1 - "Re-learn to Breath"
Somewhere along the path in the stress jungle of higher education, some students forget how to breathe properly. Most students don't even realize that they generally take short, quick, shallow breaths until they are so low on air they gasp in an overflow of oxygen. Taking shallow breaths prevents your brain from getting all of the oxygen it requires, thus forcing it to work on minimal fuel until the inevitable gush of gasped air comes rushing through.
To get your body and mind out of the stress jungle and back into balance, you must practice these four steps of quiet and focused deep breathing:
- In a calm place close your eyes, push all the air in your lugs and out through your mouth. Then focus on fully inhaling through your nose, expanding your belly first and then filling your lungs completely, with your shoulders pushed back, and your chest pressed out.
- As you come to the end of your inhale with your eyes still closed, pause for about three seconds and feel the fullness of the oxygen in your body.
- Don't "huff-out" the exhale! Gently exhale the air in your lungs through your mouth, which should be in a relaxed jaw "hoooooo" position in a controlled manor, and keep exhaling until you feel your stomach press all the way in and then gently open your eyes.
- Repeat this process 3-4 times. If you feel light headed, stop. This deep-breathing technique will help you to regain your mind/body balance in most any stressful time or situation.
Habit #2 - "Life isn't fair...so stop being surprised when it's not"
It doesn't matter how privileged, lucky or fortunate someone else may seem. Everyone pays their "worldly" dues in their own way. It may be hard at times to be able to see past the glaring physical, intellectual or economical advantages that some students possess. However, to keep your stress level down keep in mind that every seemingly "charmed" person whom you encounter will eventually have to pay up a lump some of "life dues." Nobody gets away clean! Life isn't fair. Get over it.
Habit #3 - "Get off the radar"
Every so often, intentionally get off your "Life Radar" by leaving your cell phone, laptop computer, planner/PDA, book bag, watch, etc. in your room while you go to a park, see a movie alone, walk through a museum, visit a bookstore, or catch a sporting event by yourself. Also don't tell anyone where you're going or how long you'll be gone. Just go and be by yourself with no distractions, no to-do lists and no time limits. Leaving the radar for a while will rejuvenate you and allow you to re-connect with the big picture even if you don't realize that you have lost your connection.
Habit #4 - "Choose your battles wisely"
Don't fight the world. You'll never win. You'll never please or beat everyone. Take frustrating events as they come and then decide which ones are worth your precious time and energy. Realize that your time and energy are the most valuable assets that you own. Do you really want to give them away to just any jerk you encounter or any annoying occurrence that pops up? Don't interpret letting a "battle" go without a fight as weakness. It is not weakness but rather strength. How truly strong and smart is the one who spends his time yelling and pushing against every force of life, just to eventually turn around and notice how incredibly far behind he's fallen? Fallen to the person who simply walked past the battle to begin with. Let it go.
Habit #5 - "Stop calling 911 on your life"
Your life isn't an emergency. No matter how many responsibilities you have, or how many tasks you have left to do, if you were to die in your sleep tonight, life would go on without you for everyone else. You and your endeavors are not critical to anyone but you. So ease up on yourself. Remember the age-old advice that in 100 years there will be an entirely new set of people on this plant. So why care yourself to death about what you're doing now? In a mere 100 years even the greatest achievements of today will just be second-hand information to a whole new crop of people.
Habit #6 - "Choose kindness over self-righteousness"
You can spend your entire life insisting your opinion is the right one, but nobody will like you. The more you push your need to be right, is equal to the level of compassion other people won't have for you. Your opinion on a given issue is simply one of many differing opinions. Your opinion on a given issue is not right, and it is not wrong - it's simply yours. Just like everyone else's opinion is neither right nor wrong, it's an opinion. If you do not accept other people have opinions beside your own, you will be unhappy, stressed-out and lonely!
Habit #7 - "You don't have to clean up someone else's mess"
Learning to say "no" to other people's problems is vital to reducing your stress. You don't have to catch someone else's ball of problems when they throw it at you. You have a life of your own with tasks and hardships to deal with. It is okay to help a friend with a problem; just be aware of when you're making their problem, your problem. It is possible to aid someone without taking on the problem yourself. What good are two people with one problem? Wouldn't it be better to have one person with a problem, and then someone else with a clear head who can lend some logical support?
Habit #8 - "More is not better"
No matter how hard you work to acquire possessions, status and experiences, you will always have more than some, but not as much as others. It's a race you will never win. If you truly want to be happy and stress-free, the secret is to have access to life's extras, not own them. You'll notice that once you begin to collect or acquire "extra things," you are now responsible for them; and with responsibly comes stress. So, the less "extras" you own, is equal to the fewer things you are responsible for, which is directly related to the level of stress in your life. TRANSLATION: The less "extras" you own, the more time, energy and resources you'll have to enjoy more.
Habit #9 - "It's all right to ask for assistance"
Don't beg for help! Instead, ask for assistance. You'll notice that people are more receptive and willing to assist others who explain their situation and ask for assistance, verses those who scream, "I need," "Give me," or "Help me now!" Build a mental team of helpers who you can turn to for assistance in times of heavy stress. This team can be comprised of family members, friends who you have frequent contact with, friendly professors, and even an old high school coach, counselor or teacher whom you have a continuing relationship with.
Habit #10 - "Give yourself 10 minutes"
Take ten minutes for yourself every day to keep your stress level down. During this time, do not focus or direct your thoughts to any one specific thing. Simply turn everything in the room off, lie down on the floor, close your eyes, remove your shoes and then stretch yourself out and make your body as long as possible. Concentrate only on quieting your mind. Imagine you are lying on a beautiful, warm beach. Now picture that the thoughts in your head are in the form of butterflies, and as they come to you, you just let them fly right by. Once you do this they will come at you faster and faster, but as you continue to let them fly by, the butterflies will begin slowing down rapidly. It's also okay if you fall asleep. Just keep letting those butterflies fly right past you every time you "give yourself 10 minutes."
Habit #11 - "Give gratitude and it will come back"
Have faith that when you give gratitude, compliments and express generously that it will come back to you in one way or another. Simply say thanks when nobody else does, give praise when no one seems to notice, or spend a little extra of your time or money with someone or something that really needs some special attention. Realize that spreading gratitude isn't a give-and-take experience. All you do is give, and understand that your life is better and less stressful for it in many ways that you'll probably never notice.
Habit #12 - "Express yourself"
Once you get bogged down in obligations and stop finding time and ways to express yourself, that is when stress creeps in. No matter how busy you are, you must always leave time to be creative. Write poems, songs, books or articles; play sports or instruments; paint, sculpt, dance, sing. Whatever you do to express yourself and display your talents, never stop doing it. If you stop doing what you love to do you'll be inviting double stress into your life. You'll now have the stress of doing all your tasks, along with the stress of not being able to express yourself. Kill the double stress and make time to express yourself. You'll be happier and more likely to complete your other tasks when you make time to do what you love to do.
Habit #13 - "Get organized"
Disorganization is one of the leading causes of stress for college students. Organize your papers, assignments and schedule into one notebook, binder or planner. Have everything you need to complete all of your tasks in one neatly arranged place. Keep only what you absolutely need. Clutter equals stress, and it kills college careers! Throw it out. If it's very important, someone else will have it for you to make a copy of. Take neat notes and keep all of the information for a particular class separate from all of your other school materials. Also, do most of your homework, papers, and studying in the same place. Find a quite, clean, distraction-free area and make it your organized concentration place.
Habit #14 - "This too shall pass"
No matter how stressed-out you are at any given time, repeat to yourself, "This too shall pass." Just like any bad rain storm, blizzard, or tornado, your bad relationship break-ups, very hard exams or lengthy public speaking presentations will have a beginning, middle and end. No matter how bad or stressful a situation you're in, it will pass and your life will be back to normal and even better very soon-because now you'll have the knowledge and experience of enduring that stressful situation to aid you when the next unpleasant situation comes around.