With all the competing priorities in your life, it can be difficult to set aside time for yourself. But getting small pockets of relaxation as often as possible can help you in the long run, increasing focus and reducing the risk of burnout. The key is to practice your relaxation in ways that fit into your busy schedule and don’t interfere with your ability to get things done. So, what are some productive relaxation strategies you can use? See our ideas below:
Guided relaxation or meditation
Time commitment: 10 – 15 minutes a day
Studies show that just 10 minutes a day of meditation can help lower anxiety and stress. The great thing about meditation is you can do it virtually anywhere thanks to the many apps that are now available for your phone. Some of our favourites include: Stop, Breathe, and Think; Calm; or Headspace.
Time commitment: 20 – 60 minutes a day
We’ve all heard about the health benefits of getting a little bit of physical activity every day. Physical activity helps with our mental health as well. If you are so inclined, Waterloo has lots of different athletics facilities, intramural teams, and classes available. If you aren’t a gym person, even just swapping your car for your bike and biking in can be beneficial. There are also a lot of 10 – 15-minute yoga videos on YouTube you can use to get a dose of physical activity in the comfort of your own home.
Time commitment: 15 – 60 minutes a day
A little bit of laughter goes a long way. Whether it is watching a 30-minute episode of a comedy show you like, listening to an audio version of your favourite standup, or listening to a humorous podcast,
adding a little bit of levity to your day can help you refocus your mind. A podcast like The Hilarious World of Depression can provide a light-hearted take on a serious subject while helping you learn strategies for dealing with life’s ups and downs. The Hilarious World offers a series of conversations with comedians and other creative folks and how they’ve dealt with their depression.
Time commitment: Many small moments in a day
The way you talk to yourself can positively impact your stress levels. Be aware and notice your thoughts as you have them and examine the way you are making yourself feel. If you find yourself thinking something like “I have so much work to do, I’ll never get it done”, counter that thought with something more positive like “Yes, there is a lot to do, but if I break it into manageable chunks and plan my time accordingly, I can do my best to get it all done.” Other gentle and kind thoughts you can think to yourself are simple phrases like “I am doing my best” or “I will be okay.”
Reaching out to your support system
Time commitment: 10 – 60 minutes a day
Speaking with someone who you have a strong connection with, even if it is just about the weather or what you’ve done this week, can help relax you and reduce the feeling of stress you might feel. Even if you feel like your strongest connections aren’t nearby, maybe you’re on co-op in a city you don’t know or maybe you’re at Waterloo for school but you’re from British Columbia, you can still set up a Skype or Facetime call. If you have a support system nearby, try to get together with them as often as you can. This doesn’t need to be just a chat about what is stressing you out, this could be setting up a weekly get together with 2-3 friends to play a board game.
Time commitment: 20 – 30 minutes a day
This could be playing or listening to music. You don’t need to be a prodigy to play an instrument. Taking 20 – 30 minutes to strum anything on a guitar or even your sixth-grade recorder can cause your brain to think in a different way than it does when you are cramming differential equations. Listening to music can be relaxing too. Anything that calms or inspires you will work. Try putting on your headphones and lying on the floor with your eyes closed so that you are only focused on the music. Don’t know what music calms you? There are many playlists already made on apps like Spotify and Pinterest that you can try out.
Time commitment: 20 – 45 minutes a day
Painting, cooking a new recipe, knitting, beading, scrapbooking, building models, or doing a puzzle are all ways to exercise your creative side. Practicing a creative hobby can help you engage different parts of your brain than what you use day-to-day studying.
Choose what works for you
There’s no one thing that works for everyone. And the same thing might not work for you all the time. Sometimes you need to choose a menu of relaxation activities throughout the week to help you engage your relaxation response. Maybe you meditate three days a week at lunch, catch a yoga class once a week, and knit while you catch your favourite TV show at night. Combining many different strategies can help lower your stress levels. If you’d like to learn more about Stress Management and ways to relax, check out our Stress Management Video Seminar.
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