For college women leaders
20 Ways to Stress Out Less BEFORE You Reach for that Cigarette, Beer, Latte, or Pint of Cherry Garcia
By: Maria Pascucci, Founder & President, Campus Calm®
When we're stressed out, it's so tempting to reach for that cigarette, chill out with a beer, or ransack the Oreo's. We've been taught to be a consumerist culture, after all. Marketers spend billions of dollars each year to make sure we know that there's a product out there waiting to fix all our problems. While there's nothing wrong with businesses spending money to educate the public about their products and services, there is plenty wrong with manipulating the public, especially young people, into believing that stress management can be bought. Positive stress management becomes possible when student leaders and young professionals are empowered with the resources and support they need to see that they are in charge of their own destinies, including how they manage their stress.
We cannot solely blame advertising and absolve ourselves from responsibility as passive victims. Think about it. How many of us grew up observing how the adults around us managed stress? Did Dad crack open a beer the second he returned home from work while he swore under his breath about his boss? Did Mom light up a cigarette the second she got off the phone with Grandma? Did Uncle Dan drink eight cups of coffee to keep going all day and then pop Tylenol PM to help him doze off at night? Did Aunt Rita head straight for the pint of Cherry Garcia when Uncle Dan phoned to say he'd be pulling yet another all-nighter at the office?
Did we adopt the same practices? Do we reach for a beer to unwind after class or work? Do we light up a cigarette to calm our nerves before a big exam or job interview? Do we turn to ice cream when we're feeling lonely or bored? Do we rely on caffeine to rev us up during the day and sleeping pills to calm us down at night? Do we want to pass those types of coping skills down to our future children? Let’s learn how to lead by example to create a better way!
My interns, Kristen Szustakowski, Colleen Kersten and I created a laundry list of our favorite ways to manage stress ... before you reach for that cigarette, beer, latte or pint of Cherry Garcia. If you have your own stress management ideas, share them with the world!
1) Light some candles, get the incense going and put on some soft piano provided by your iTunes radio. Lie down on your bed and breathe. This is something you can do for an hour at the end of the day or 20 minutes between classes.
2) Also lying on your bed, perhaps with the candles and music, close your eyes and imagine the thing that is stressing you out. Focus on it. Then imagine you are erasing it. Go back and forth over the image until it's gone and you have nothing but a blank white sheet in front of you. Now in your mind, draw on that blank sheet something that makes you smile.
3) Having an especially stressful day? Month? Year? Open up a notebook so you're looking at both sides. On the left side, write down everything that made this time for you especially lame. When you're finished, take a black marker and start with the first thing you wrote down. Think about that moment for a minute, and then cross it off. Do that through the entire page. On the right side of your notebook, write all the things you're looking forward to, your goals, your dreams. The past is gone and all that's left in the notebook are the good things to come.
4) Lie down somewhere and close your eyes. Tighten your toes, then release. Tighten your legs, then release. Move up your body tightening every muscle. Then tighten your whole body for a few seconds, and let it go. Then let your muscles relax. (This is especially good for when you're trying to fall asleep.)
5) Pour yourself a cup of Apple Juice and crack open a coloring book. Forget coloring unknown liquids in beakers for a moment and color a power ranger or a castle!
1) Sometimes you're just too stressed, angry or anxious to lounge in a bubble bath, color with crayons or relax on your bed. Ever hear your mom scream, "Calgon, take me away!" after you and your brother smashed her favorite picture frame into a million pieces and then spent the next five minutes blaming each other over who did it? Well, how can you let Calgon take you away when all you want to do is find a punching bag and go a few rounds with all that ails you? Well, why not do it? Head to your campus gym and kick the punching bag's butt. Boxing not your thing? Go for a run, slip on your rollerblades, pop in a step-aerobics DVD or sprint up a few flights of stairs. After your heart is pumping for about 15 to 30 minutes, you'll see some of that stress start to subside. The more you sweat, the calmer you will find yourself. When you return to your bedroom, take a quick shower. Then…
2) Lie on your bed or your floor with a yoga mat. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. In and out. When you inhale, picture the person, thing or event that is stressing you out. When you exhale, whisper the word, "calm." After you breathe in and out a few times, try to stop thinking about whatever's stressing you out. Instead, think of something that makes you happy. Picture it every time you inhale, still thinking or whispering the word "calm" when you exhale. Discover how healing the breath can be.
3) Phone a friend. Make sure it's a good friend that you know you can trust and count on. Vent to him or her. Scream. Cry. Swear. Then stop. Listen to what your friend has to say about your situation. Sometimes we all need an objective voice of reason to help us put our stress into perspective. Allow your friend to be brutally honest with you because maybe he/she can point out a solution that you're too angry or stressed to see. Before hanging up the phone, remember to say, "Thank you" to your friend. Be on call to return the favor the next time your pal needs you.
4) Cook! Yes, cook. Fall is here and so is soup time. Pick a weekend afternoon to lose yourself in culinary experimentation. Don't have a kitchen of your own? Go to Mom and Dad's or follow a friend home. Throw out the recipe books. What do you like? Carrots, celery, beets? Beef? Tofu? Chicken? Dice, slice, chop and mix your worries away. Breathe in spicy aromas. Simmer your senses with sage. Cilantro, mustard seed, turmeric. Parsley, garlic, ginger. Hmm. Express gratitude for the medicinal power of foods. Don't worry if your efforts don't produce a masterpiece your first go around. The process of cooking can be therapeutic and that's the point! But if you manage to create a great tasting meal, allow that feeling of accomplishment to further de-stress you. After all, you can't eat your term paper when you finish that "other" weekend project. ;-) *Hint: if your soup tastes bland, resist the temptation to load up on more salt. Consider adding in fresh spices, canned or fresh tomatoes or organic pumpkin puree.
5) Give yourself a facial. If you're stressed, here's a ten-minute facial to try:
Step one: Wash your face and neck with your favorite soap or skin care product. One to try: Thoroughly Clean Face Wash with organic tea tree oil.
Step two: mix a tablespoon of ground oatmeal with a little bit of water or milk and apply it to your face. Using your fingers, gently rub your forehead in tiny circular motions; then move to your nose, cheeks, chin and neck for up to two minutes. Oatmeal is a natural exfoliator. Visualize your pores opening up, eliminating toxins and environmental stressors. Rinse off with warm water.
Step three: Massage your face with your favorite essential oils. Essential oils can be purchased cheaply from your local health food store or online. Relaxing essential oils to try: Lavender, chamomile and sandalwood with a base oil like Ylang ylang, jojoba or almond oil. Your face can hold a lot of tension, so a facial massage can be an awesome de-stressor that also forces you to slow down for a few minutes. Bonus: you skin will glow afterwards. * Essential oils are great for problematic skin as well, including sensitive, acne-prone skin. Click here to learn the basics of essential oils.
6) Write. You don't need to be a professional wordsmith to journal your worries away. Set a timer for ten minutes, pick up a pencil and some paper and just write whatever comes to mind. Don't try to censor your thoughts and feelings. Just get them out. Love yourself enough to give yourself a voice, even if no one ever hears it but you. Bonus: when you're not a professional writer, your friends and family don't have to worry about starring in your latest article or book!
7) Prioritize your time. If you're stressing because you have five term papers due in the next three weeks and exams to study for, sit down and make a list of every single thing you have to do. Everything. Look at your extracurricular activities, family obligations, chores, outside employment. Determine what things on your list are non-negotiable tasks and what things you could cut back on for a few weeks until your semester wraps up. Are there any things you could delegate or eliminate? Remember that authentic success does not mean feeling like you have to do everything and be everything to all people. Leaders can and should say “no” to time traps.
8) Confront the situation. Are you stressing because you're having trouble understanding course material for a class that's completely outside your comfort zone? Instead of focusing all your energies on stressing about the problem, why not consider confronting the situation head on? Stop by your professor's office during office hours to discuss your academic anxieties. Ask what you can do to get extra help. Show your professor that you care enough to try to excel at something new. Be proud of your ability to step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself to grow.
9) Accept what you cannot control. Did you have a falling out with your best friend? Have you tried to apologize to no avail? Are you spending all your time focusing on how angry you are with your friend because she refuses to try to forgive you? Consider trying to accept that while you cannot control your friend's behavior, you can control your own. Take this opportunity to do a little self-investigation. What can you gain from your fallout with your friend? What mistakes did you make that you can learn from and never repeat again? Can you grieve the loss of your friendship while letting go of your anger? Can you forgive your friend even when she refuses to forgive you in return? What did you learn about true friendship? Would a true friend be unforgiving? How can you be a better friend in the future? How can you be a better friend to yourself as well?
1) Do something for someone else. When we stress, we are consumed by all of the things our personal lives demand of us. We tend to forget about other people. Smile and hold the door open for a stranger. Surprise the person standing behind you in the café line by paying for his coffee. Help a fellow student with an assignment that they do not understand. If you are really ambitious, volunteer a small amount of your time at a local soup kitchen or hospital. Practicing such acts of kindness - whether small or big - will be rewarding in the positive feelings of contentment that they bring. Doing so will allow you to keep perspective.
2) Get lost in a good book or magazine. Curl up on the couch or in your bed, and forget about all the work you have to do. Read for your own pleasure and enjoyment.
3) Get a massage. Bodywork is known for its rejuvenating and therapeutic abilities: to decrease anxiety, enhance sleep quality, provide greater energy, improve concentration, increase circulation, and reduce fatigue. Not only is a massage stress relieving, but it also promotes a better sense of self and general wellbeing. While some campuses offer massages to students, if this is not an option for you, find someone who gives a really good backrub!
4) Go outside. Get some fresh air. Walk with a friend or go for a hike. Observe the changing leaves and take in the scents of fall. Listen to the soothing movement of running water or people crunching the leaves on the ground as they walk by you. Carve a pumpkin. Embrace the nature that surrounds you.
5) Take a power nap. Research shows that taking a mid-day nap improves your ability to be patient, reduces your stress level, increases your learning ability, and allows you to be more efficient and healthy. So take 20 minutes out of your busy day and relax! You deserve it!
Story Callout: Are you a college student or young professional who has been able to quit smoking, drinking, or binge eating because you found a more positive way to manage stress? Share your story with us! We may feature it on our website, or in an upcoming Campus Calm Connections newsletter issue.
Ever after in faith of ourselves,
Do you resonate with Maria's story? If so, you're the person Maria's speaking to in her book Campus Calm University. It's designed to empower you to give up the exhausting pursuit of perfection (whether it's grades or body), and instead embrace the real steps to success, health, happiness and leadership. Chapters teach you how to be a lifelong learner, infuse your career search with some PG passion, love yourself, embrace risk, focus inward and surround yourself with a network of positive people who can help you reach your goals. And much more too!