Small Activities That Have a Big Impact When Managing Stress

Even outside of these unprecedented and troubling times, undertaking tertiary education can be pretty full-on to deal with. It can be stressful for many different reasons, all of them valid when it has left you feeling like you’ve jumped into the deep end of a pool without floaties. Sometimes, you don’t even realise you’re stressed and avoiding your studies until you’ve pressed play to re-watch Hamilton for the sixth time and have started to watch Teen Wolf from the start for the third time.

It happens to the best of us.

You don’t have to add this realisation to your list of stressors. I’m here to help out by providing some small activities that help calm anxious thoughts and give you some breathing room to recentre yourself and your focus.

DISCLAIMER: This list isn’t one-size-fits-all.

If you find yourself struggling a lot, remember that Deakin provides free mental health services.

1. Light a scented candle

They’re cute, sweet, and easy. Not to mention inexpensive. Lighting a scented candle that you like really helps to settle swirling thoughts. It can also be used as a tool to set your mind into a routine, i.e., lighting each time before sitting down to study.

2. Hot beverages

Not only is drinking tea soothing (and good for your health), or any other hot drink that takes your fancy, taking the time to go through the motions of making yourself a drink is great for re-centering yourself!

3. Journal

Having a dedicated space, or dumping ground, to release all of your thoughts is super beneficial when taking care of your mental health. Even if it’s a one-liner to get a specific thought out of your head and onto the page, or if you spend hours writing down (or drawing) all of your emotions, it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. Journals can come in the form of pocket notebooks, loose pieces of paper, the notes app on your phone, or a Word document on your laptop. You don’t even need to hold onto these thoughts if you don’t want to; feel free to trash them! There are no rules, just as long as there is a safe space for you to express your thoughts freely.

4. Comfort food and/or baking

Nothing tastes better than the food we love the most. Better yet, nothing (in my opinion) tastes better than freshly baked chocolate chip cookies consumed straight from the oven, especially when you catered your time to give yourself room to create something so delicious! Surprisingly, trying to bake bread for the first time is also plenty of fun!

5. Go for a walk

As long as the weather is permitting, nothing compares to spending some time outside where you are surrounded by nature (even if that means a tree planted in front of every house on your block). There are plenty of studies that are a few clicks away on the internet that tells you of the health benefits of walking and having plant life around you. Bonus activity: take photos along your walk. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, but making sure to stop along the way to take a look around allows for time for you to just breathe. Great for settling that busy mind.

6. Cuddle a pet

If you have them, nothing compares to snuggling up close to your purring cat or ever-loving dog.

7. Re-watch Hamilton for the sixth time

Or any other TV show or movie that you’ve watched so many times that you can quote line for line. Having something that is familiar to you, something that you know the outcomes of, settles the growing list of uncertainties in your head. When you are familiar with the rhyme of a storyline, it makes it much easier as a viewer to sit back and relax.

8. Reread a favourite book, or put on your favourite music

In the same vein as the activity above, rereading a beloved story, or listening to songs you know so well you can sing them acapella, brings a sense of comfort and familiarity. Being able to undertake a task that you have done before tells you two things:

1. You have done this before, and you can do it again (wisdom that can be applied to your studying as well!)

2. There is no pressure to complete this task because it is already completed.

You can stop reading at any page because you know where it is going to end. You can pause the song at any point because you know what that last note is.

9. Try a hands-on craft

Sometimes when we are feeling anxious, we often feel like we have pent up energy that we don’t how or where to channel it. This is where having a hands-on craft is helpful. It is a non-pressure activity that will give your hands something to do while channelling that energy. Crafts such as knitting, colouring in pictures, sketching, cross-stitching, and there are plenty more crafts that can be found online. It doesn’t matter what the results are; all that matters is that you had fun during the process. It is also a great tool that can help rewire your brain to start thinking, ‘any small task that fosters positive emotion is productive and is NOT a waste of time’.

10. Book an appointment with Deakin’s support staff

Sometimes, everything gets to be too much, too overwhelming, and too difficult to deal with alone. That’s okay; this is not something to be ashamed of. Deakin has highly skilled psychologists and social workers who are available to talk to about any issues you may be having, and these sessions don’t need to be limited to issues only pertaining to your studies. Don’t forget, these sessions are free! You can book an appointment and find more information from Deakin’s webpage Counselling and Psychological Support.

And there we have it! This is a very small list that hopefully helps to ease all of the tumbling thoughts in your head. It is no secret that these activities have saved my behind more than once from having a full-out breakdown.

A little reminder: how you are feeling is valid.

It is okay to feel as you do and to feel deeply. You just have to reel yourself back in and say something like, ‘I am the captain of this ship, I have the power to steer my emotions and control how I face my situations.’ I don’t know, something like that. I’m sure that I am not as inspirational (and wholly produced) as RuPaul Charles on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Now it’s time to go relax!

Read more of Julia’s work in the Euphoria and Discord editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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