December heralds the season of busy as students across the country are in go mode, preparing for final projects and exams. Academic pressure quickly yields itself to the pressure of holidays and all too often, this season marked for a time of excitement, celebration, and joyful anticipation of time with family and friends can become hijacked by stress and anxiousness. It is natural to want to engage in all the season offers, though it may be challenging to remain present toward one’s values amidst the noise of surrounding stress.
This begs the question – what can be done to promote a sense of calm and deeper connection to the Lord during such a season? In a word, self-care.
Self-care is a ritual of attunement. Practicing self-care helps a person recognize when they are out of balance. Signs of stress that may point to being out of balance include (but are not limited to) difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, eating more or less than typical, irritability or being short-tempered with friends or acquaintances. When stress shows up in this manner, it is good to practice self-care fundamentals. Here are some practical steps:
- Practice Deep Breathing – When you notice your heart racing, palms sweating, or breathing getting shallow, pause and take three big deep breaths in and out. (Putting one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest can help you slow down to bring your breathing to a more even, steady pace.) Repeat as many times as you need to calm your body.
- Notice what’s going on around you, Practice the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique – Pause and notice five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste (put a mint in your mouth or take a sip of water).
- Move your body – Go for a walk, work out at the gym, or engage in another physical activity you enjoy.
- Get creative – Draw, paint, color, play an instrument, sing, write, etc.
- Journal as a way to reflect on how you’re doing – Set aside 15-20 minutes to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling/what you’re needing.
- Don’t forget to eat – Plan out mealtimes and be proactive to bring snacks to eat to maintain level blood sugar throughout the day.
- Get good rest/Practice good sleep hygiene – Put away electronics about 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed (turn off blue light screens) and read, listen to music, or engage in another relaxing activity. Drink tea if you enjoy it. Do your nightly routine, then as much as possible, go to bed at a reasonable time.
- Organize your weeks and days – Write out your weekly school and activity schedule. Add in time to complete your coursework/study. Then, schedule time for breaks. (Your brain needs time to rest!)
- Set aside time for friends during the week – Eat lunch or dinner with a friend. Schedule time during one of your breaks and invite a friend to go for a walk or catch up over a cup of coffee.
- Don’t overextend yourself – Pick and choose the activities you absolutely don’t want to miss and give yourself permission to say no to the things that will create added stress if you attend.
- Find time to spend with God throughout the week – This can be a hard habit to build but set aside time with God each day (especially when you don’t think you have it!) and reflect on how you feel after you do. Please don’t be harsh with yourself if you miss a day (or a few) – God loves it when you spend time with Him.
Finally, if you find that you are experiencing stress or anxiety to a level that requires additional support, feel free to reach out to Counseling Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-631-5190.