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Anika Manzoor

15 Tips for Students to Reduce Stress During COVID-19

a young woman in workout gear rests against a tree trunk in a field with hands behind her head and wide smile on her facebook to represent reducing student stress -image by magoosh

It’s tough being a student during the time of coronavirus. On top of worrying about loved ones and the state of the world in general and really missing social interactions, like everyone else, you also have the added student stress of worrying about your education and your future. To help you cope and make the most of this crisis, here are Magoosh’s 15 tips to stay sane as we practice social distancing and staying at home.

1. Practice Gratitude and Positive Thinking

One of the things this crisis has revealed is just how good many of us have it. Especially if you have a roof over your head, a loving family to weather this crisis with, and food on the table, practicing gratitude is not only a good way to see the silver lining, but it’s also a great way to increase your happiness. Check out some more tips on gratitude and positive thinking here.

2. Intentionally Take Care of Your Mind and Body

Don’t let laziness get in the way here! Even dedicating half an hour a day to taking care of your mind and body can work wonders for your sense of calm and happiness. If you take away anything from this article, let it be the importance of the following three practices:

Exercise

Being in quarantine doesn’t mean that we can never leave our house! Even states with the strictest stay-at-home orders deem physical outdoor activities as essential—and for very good reason. Do some yoga in your backyard or go for a bike ride around your neighborhood while maintaining considerable distance from other people (more than six feet, if possible). If there are a lot of folks out and about, you can work out at home—lots of gyms and fitness studios are offering streaming services completely free of charge.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

While it may be tempting to stay up all night one night and watch Netflix, it’s super important to maintain good sleep habits. While lack of sleep may no longer be an issue for many students, it’s critical to maintain a consistent sleep schedule (even on the weekends) and avoid things that mess with your system right before going to sleep, like huge meals and extensive screen time. Working out earlier in the day also helps with falling asleep faster!

Meditate

If meditation isn’t already part of your daily routine, it definitely should be! Even meditating as little as 5 minutes a day every day has huge health benefits, from reducing stress to boosting your immune system. Look into apps such as Insight Timer, which has the largest free collection of guided meditations, or Headspace. To boost your relaxation even more, consider pairing medication with fun self-care activities like taking bubble baths!
 

young woman relaxing at the end of her tub during a bubble bath with eyes closed and a slight smile -image by Olena Yakobchuk

Even for you bubble bath naysayers out there, you have to admit that this looks pretty relaxing

3. Eat Foods that Make You Happy

While many students stress eat, that’s not what I’m referring to—I’m talking about foods that are scientifically proven to make you happy (although many of them are indeed enjoyable to eat). Here are some examples:

Bananas: As you probably know, bananas are full of potassium, but did you know that potassium is proven to help reduce stress and depression? This is great news for everyone who has been baking a lot of banana bread these days!

Dark chocolate: Eating small amounts of dark chocolate actually regulates your body’s cortisol, a hormone that controls stress.

Mango: The tropical fruit contains linalool, a chemical that University of Tokyo scientists claim brings down stress levels.

Green tea: Green tea is chock full of L-Theanine, which is said to reduce anger and stress. Plus, sipping a nice, warm beverage is already sort of comforting and soothing. Consider adding honey, which has chemicals like quercetin and kaempferol that have relaxing properties.

Gum: Okay, so this technically isn’t food, but it is something you chew on, so we’ll count it anyway. According to an NIH study, chewing gum actually alleviates negativity and reduces cortisol when under stress. So grab your nearest pack of (sugar-free) gum and chew that thing like it’s nobody’s business!

For more happiness foods, check out this post.

4. Create a Routine

Keeping a routine, which will help you create a sense of normalcy amid all this chaos, can do wonders for your mental health. Go to sleep and get up at the same time (as mentioned before), dedicate a certain amount of time for your studies (even if your school is still trying to figure out a fixed schedule), continue doing your ACT or SAT prep if it makes sense, and set aside a block for exercise and doing things you enjoy.

5. But Also Mix Things Up to the Extent Possible

Forget about being confined in your house; it’s easy to go stir-crazy if all you’re seeing day after day are the same neighborhood streets. In addition to being the spice of life, variety is also good for your mental health. While having a general routine is important, you also want to switch things up within that routine as much as possible:

  • Try to do an activity in every location of your home.
  • Go to the park one weekend, a new hiking trail the next (since physical outdoor activities are considered essential activities, most states allow such travel).
  • Use this list as a jumping point to create a goal to do something different every day, no matter how small that goal is.
  • If you need social interaction beyond your family, call a different friend every day and/or invite a friend to do an essential outdoor activity while strictly observing social distancing.

6. Clean

The next time your mom asks you to help her with spring cleaning, resist the urge to roll your eyes—look at it as an invitation to practice self-care! Cleaning and organizing not only allow you to feel in control of your environment (something we all need a sense of these days!), but they are also soothing activities that help you relax.

7. Laugh

Laughter really is the best medicine. Or, at least, it’s excellent at de-stressing! Scientific studies have proven that laughing eases stress and lowers blood pressure. Just look at all the coronavirus-related memes everyone has been sharing or how TikTok has gotten even more weird and hilarious; it comes to no wonder why so many people have been using jokes as a coping mechanism. If you need to step away from these memes, watch some funny videos on YouTube or remember a funny memory, and you’ll be guaranteed to feel a lot less stressed.

8. Keep a Journal

Writing out your thoughts is a great way to organize and process your emotions and reflect on everything that’s going on. It’s also a really great way to document this historical time that we’re living in and it could be something that you’ll pat yourself on the back for doing in the future. Consider journaling the first thing you do when you wake up and/or one the last things you do before you go to sleep.

9. Engage in Creative Pursuits

It is never too late or the wrong time to bring more creativity in your life, and it is particularly true in these times. Dust off that ukulele that’s been sitting in your basement for years. Bust out that watercolor set that you’ve been meaning to use for ages (you may find yourself unearthing these things during your cleaning sessions! See what I did there 😉 ).
 

girl on hammock with a ukulele outside with her face out of the frame -image by tyson4ik

That’s the sound of happiness right there.

You’d be surprised at what kind of artistic or craftsy items are in your house, available online, or still in stock at essential businesses in your community. And if you’re hard-pressed to find anything beyond paper and pens, there’s a lot you could do with that, too.

10. Show Your Affection

Show love to the people you are homebound with! Although it should be a no-brainer that feeling loved would make people happier, there is real science behind it: hugging reduces blood pressure and stress levels, and kissing fights stress-related hormones. If you live with essential workers, finding non-physical ways to express your affection and deep gratitude for their service does the trick, too.

11. Listen to Music

Music definitely has a strong psychological impact on its listeners, and the right type of music can help you focus more, uplift your spirits, and even relieve your stress. Consider listening to ambient music or low and quiet classical music as you do other activities. For more contemporary options, you won’t regret going through the entire catalog of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series.

12. Have Meaningful Conversations

Talk about your stress with someone. Really, it helps. Find an understanding friend or family member to talk about your problems with (preferably someone who won’t make you more stressed!). If you feel like there’s no one who understands, there are tons of counseling hotlines like this one which will help you for free.

13. Minimize Screen Time

Excessive screen time is already inadvisable during normal times; now that we’re in a situation where we’re tempted to use our electronics MORE while everything around us feels downright apocalyptic, it probably doesn’t take much screen time to drive yourself crazy these days. (Also Zoom fatigue is a very real thing.)

Reduce your news and social media intake—set time limits if you need to. If you need social time, sprinkle in some old-fashioned phone calls with your FaceTiming so that you’re not staring at the screen. Even when you have to use tech, switching it up between your phone and your laptop could help too.

14. Give Back

According to research, volunteering and giving back actually increases happiness. There are a lot of different ways to give back during this crisis, such as donating to mutual-aid networks, giving blood, or supporting your favorite local restaurant by giving to relief funds. Check out this post and our post on how students are responding to the crisis for more ideas!

15. Go Easy on Yourself

It’s super important to note that however you’ve been processing this crisis is perfectly fine. We’re living in troubling times and it’s really hard to manage. Many of the tips in this post might be hard to work into your routine as a result. That’s totally okay.

Try not to beat yourself up if you’re not being as productive as you want to be or if you’re not “making the most” out of your time in quarantine.

Just focus on being in tune with yourself and your needs, which is also just good advice in non-crisis times. So in a few months from now, when you’re adding back extracurriculars and the five billion things you have in your typical schedules, don’t forget about these self-care tips to help you manage student stress!

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About Anika Manzoor

Anika is one of Magoosh’s Blog Editors. She makes sure the content across our blogs is error-free, easy to read, pleasing to the eye, and Google-friendly. Anika has ten years of experience in teaching and facilitating. She has taught English to language learners of all ages in places like Ecuador and Malaysia, has tutored high schoolers in SAT prep, and has led several youth empowerment programs. Anika earned her B.A. in Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies from Grinnell College and her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. When she’s not scouring the web for the perfect gif for the blog or strategizing for educational equity, Anika can be found bingeing Netflix, searching Spotify for gems for her workout playlist, or obsessively reading the news. LinkedIn


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