How to deal with stress in healthy ways

student meditating on top of hill with sunset in the horizon
Written by Eric (he/him), student

Remember, stress is something that most people deal with, including myself. So, you’re not alone.

Strategies to help you deal with stress

Kitten sleeping in a bed.

Get enough sleep

A lot of the stress can be the result of a lack of sleep. Just like your body, your brain can also get tired. By making sure that your brain is well-rested, you’ll be able to avoid the risk of being overtired and not being able to think properly while writing a paper late at night.

The ideal amount of sleep you’re supposed to get (for someone aged 17 to 24) every night is around eight hours. Napping is also a good way of getting the rest you need ­– even a short nap of about 26 minutes will do the trick (you can read more about the ideal naptime.)

Practise self-care

Taking care of yourself is another important and effective way to deal with stress. Practising methods that will make you happy or calm you down in certain situations are valuable and can really help you keep from feeling overwhelmed.

For some people this can mean taking a hot bubble bath, watching an episode of your favourite TV show, or eating a healthy snack. My favourite thing to do is watch a video on YouTube. This works for me mainly because I can limit myself to one video that usually doesn't take up more than 15 minutes.

Clare, a third-year math student, likes to do something to first work off nervous energy and then relax. "It sounds silly but usually I dance and then I sleep. Maybe it’s not that practical, but it definitely helps!"

Some other techniques I’ve used include listening to music and doing things like drawing or colouring to help process what I’m feeling. These tactics help put me in a good mood and relax for a little while.

Rolling up a yoga mat.

Exercise

This may not be everyone’s favourite, but I can say from experience that it does work. Whether you prefer to lift weights, run, go on long walks, or just do push ups in your room, exercising can have a number of positive effects. Not only does it make you physically stronger, but it can help clear your mind. Also, it releases endorphins which can reduce stress, help you feel more positive, and regulate your appetite.

Speaking of appetite, make sure you’re giving your body healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, rather than junk food. While the latter might taste good, it doesn’t benefit you in the long run. The average teenager should have up seven to eight servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Aujas, a fourth-year Faculty of Environment student says, “any physical exercise – like taking the stairs, never elevators – will give you a short workout and help lower your stress level.” I relate to this as well and it’s always something I do before an exam or audition.

Instead of freaking out, I make a list of everything I need to do, and I check things off as I finish them.

Make a to-do list

A really good way to stay on top of all your assignments and responsibilities is to take everything just one step at a time. Often, I’ll get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of everything that I have to do. So instead of freaking out, I make a list of everything I need to do, and I check things off as I finish them. In doing this, I turn all my big tasks into a number of smaller tasks, so they’re less daunting and more manageable.

Also, make sure you know your own limits because taking on too many things can result in added stress. Make sure you do a quick “mental health check” (by this I simply mean taking a minute to assess your physical and emotional health) before taking on extra tasks.

When I approach my to-do list this way, I feel like I get a lot more accomplished, and I’m not as overwhelmed as when I’m trying to finish everything at once. This technique has really helped me, and I know it works well for some of my friends, too. I’d encourage you to try it!

University resources

When you start university or college next fall, it’s likely that at some point you’ll deal with stress in one way or another. Fortunately, at Waterloo there are a number of different resources that can help you de-stress and cope with everything you have going on.

Waterloo’s Faculty of Arts plans an end of term de-stress event. This term it included ornament decorating, cookie decorating, pizza, and even a visit from therapy dogs! This event comes at the end of the semester when everyone has exams and assignments and stress levels are high, which makes it the perfect time for an event like this.

Therapy puppy.

Therapy puppies are a cute and unique way to get rid of all that stress, Waterloo has these therapy dogs and puppies come to campus to help students relax a bit.

In fact, every faculty has their own de-stressing events during exams breaks, too! The Faculty of Health has a Therapy Farm, which brings in different animals as a petting zoo for students. And the Faculty of Engineering puts on a Purple Pancake Breakfast with free pancakes! On top of this, there are year-round events across campus for de-stressing, like anxiety workshops and yoga.

Another very important resource is counselling. Sometimes stress levels can become dangerous and even affect our physical and mental health. When this happens, it’s important to talk to someone, especially if you feel stuck or helpless. Stress is common, but it’s not something to take lightly.

While you’re in high school, talking with your guidance counsellor or parents can be a good place to start.

If I’m feeling stressed, I like to talk it out with my friends and family. They can help me get perspective and come up with a game plan to deal with what I’m feeling. Most universities also have counselling services on campus, so that’s something to look forward to.

But while you’re in high school, talking with your guidance counsellor or parents can be a good place to start. There’s also Kids Help Phone for young people in Canada to find support for whatever you may be going through.

It’s always important to take care of yourself and ensure you’re feeling healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. Discovering what your best methods for coping with stress are will go a long way. And of course, always remember you’re not alone and there are resources to help you deal and cope with your stress.


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