Stay stress-free this semester

With midterms on the go and finals around the corner, it may be time to plan your mental health strategy

Is this you around exam time?

Is this you around exam time? Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

October is a time of transitions. The carefree attitude of summer is fading, along with the tan you worked so hard to get. While this time of year conjures happy images of leaves falling and pumpkin spice lattes for some, October is when school gets serious for students. The constant barrage of deadlines, group meetings, and projects can take its toll on even ace students.

This month also marks the start of holiday season where family and social commitments are plentiful. Between the workload and extracurricular obligations that many of us have, it’s a constant juggling act that can leave you feeling exhausted and burned out.

Learning to manage stress is a vital tool that will help during your time as a student and throughout your life. The BCIT’s Counseling has some great tips on how to stay cooler than the changing weather during times of stress.

Remember the necessities
Although this seems like a no-brainer, food and sleep are often the first things neglected during times of stress. Without sleep or nutrition, your brain will not be able to process information proficiently.

Proper nutrition includes a whole foods based diet, with lots of fresh veggies and fruit (sorry, Triple O burgers won’t do!), and eating every few hours to keep blood sugar stable. Although eight hours of sleep is ideal, it can be a challenge. Aim for no less than six hours of sleep, and if you nap during the day, keep your naps to twenty minutes to stay refreshed.

Sweat it out
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to naturally relieve stress. It can be done anywhere at any time, and is a lot cheaper than alcohol. We tend to stop exercising when we get busy, but this is one of the worst things we can do. Exercise helps our immune system stay strong and has been shown to improve memory.

The endorphins released from exercise alleviate anxiety and stress, and keep you feeling calm. It is especially important to exercise during fall, as this is the time of year we tend to pack on the pounds. If you maintain your weight during the colder months you won’t be in for a rude awakening when it comes time for swimsuit season.

Just say no
Plan your schedule every month and think about what you can afford to commit to. Don’t be afraid to say no to things you don’t have time for. Set boundaries and ensure that you don’t overload yourself just because you felt pressured by others.

Although it’s good to stay open to opportunities, you won’t enjoy them if you feel as though you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Remember, your health is your top priority, and if that means missing out on your friend’s dog’s bar mitzvah, then so be it.

But say yes 
Recognize how diligently you have been working and treat yourself. Identify when you need a break and take one. As a student, it seems like spare moments are non-existent, and there’s always something you could work on. It is important to be aware of how hard you’re working and reward yourself by doing something pleasurable. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, maybe a pumpkin spice latte or catching up on the latest episode of Dexter. Whatever you choose, ensure that you turn off student mode for a few moments.

Reach out
If you feel like you’re getting buried under the stress, don’t try to carry your burdens alone. Often, complicated situations become less so when you discuss them with someone. Try another student in your set — they are dealing with the same workload and may be able to share some tips on how they’re managing.

Another great option would be a family member or a friend. If you’re not comfortable discussing these issues with any of the aforementioned, try the counseling department at BCIT. It’s a safe place where you can confide your problems and get support.[hr]

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