A lot of times we have the tendency to pack our schedules full. Every hour of “free time” is time that could be filled with another hour of class, work, or other commitments. But having a jam-packed schedule is often a recipe for disaster. Extra side projects and assignments will always come up, and then suddenly your full load becomes an overload. Unfortunately, when my friends and I do this, we often end up sacrificing sleep in order to finish everything that needs to get done. And when you miss out on sleep, it’s harder to function and it can take a real toll on your body, especially if it’s a chronic issue.
Personally, when this happens, not only do I run out of time to sleep as long as I would like to, but all of this work creates a lot of anxiety for me. And if you’ve ever been really anxious about something (and who hasn’t?), I’m sure you know how difficult it is to sleep! And then the more tired I get, the worse my anxiety gets and the less I sleep – a difficult cycle to break.
A lot of my friends load up on caffeine in the mornings, drinking cup after cup of coffee to get through the day. I’m not sure how healthy that is for the body, but it seems like a quick fix that doesn’t really solve the root of the problem. And I personally can’t drink coffee, because caffeine shoots my anxiety through the roof. If I’m even a little anxious and then I drink a cup of caffeinated coffee, I become a complete wreck. My heart races and I start shaking and sweating so much that I literally can’t concentrate on anything until the feeling passes, which can take hours sometimes.
Some of my other, over-21 friends try to balance the stress in their life by having a few drinks from time to time. And yet again, not only does this have other health risks involved, but alcohol never really makes me feel better. If I’m anxious, it makes me more anxious. If I’m depressed, it makes me more depressed.
So I’m constantly searching for “easy” ways to get all of my work done, get enough sleep, and still find the ability to relax at the end of the day. And lately, I’ve found something that seems to help out with that: I’ve started taking baths. This is something that a lot of people do anyway, but it was never part of my schedule before. In fact, until last fall, I hadn’t taken a hot bath since I was a kid. Then last semester I was having muscle aches and a friend suggested I try soaking in the tub for a while. I found it incredibly relaxing, and now I take several baths every week. Sometimes I just sit and think, sometimes I blast music and sing at the top of my lungs, and a lot of times I actually read textbooks, which is great because I get to relax while simultaneously being productive.
When I’m in the bath, with the door locked and my music playing, it’s as if I’m in my own world. My roommates can’t ask me to do them favors, I can’t answer the phone, I can’t check my e-mails or type up papers. No one expects you to do anything stressful while you’re in the bath.
If I am particularly stressed, I will think ahead and make time in the next day or so for a long bath. Then I can look forward to that when my anxiety starts acting up and know that there will be an hour or so very soon when I can just relax and not think about anything stressful! And sometimes, when I’m done with all of my work for the day but still have residual anxiety, I take a bath before bed and it helps to relax my whole body, which sometimes lets me sleep better at night. And sleeping better helps me feel through-and-through better the next day, which means I’m more productive without needing caffeine to stay awake, which is great for me.
Recently, I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (I actually started reading it while in the bath one day), and in it she wrote, “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: ‘I’ll go take a hot bath.’ I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water’s up to your neck.” After I read that quote, I just smiled for a minute, because I hardly ever read something that I agree with so much.
Now, baths may not be your answer. Some people don’t like taking baths, or just don’t find them as relaxing as I do. But don’t be afraid to keep trying new things. Even things that seem silly may help you out more than you realize. Have you ever discovered something that benefited your health or stress levels unexpectedly? Finding time to relax is important, as is a good night’s rest. Maybe a long, hot bath will do the trick!
LeadHer™ Intern, Campus Calm™
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