I used to think stress was a load of rubbish: a term used by doctors when they didn’t know what else to say. When I was told that my stomach problems or my skin problems were probably because of “stress” I called bullsh*t and looked for alternative explanations. But then I came to university, and I saw people all around me suffering from all sorts of physical and mental problems, and I realised… stress is real, and it causes some very real, very serious problems.
It’s difficult as well because it’s not obvious. You don’t always know you’re stressed. Not until you realise you’re not sleeping, or your stomach isn’t working properly, or you’ve started losing your hair or losing weight, and you wonder why until somebody says “well, are you stressed about anything at the moment?” and you say “no no, not that I can think of” whilst you spend another £5 which you really can’t afford right now on lunch at your uni cafeteria because you forgot to make your lunch the night before because you had work until 9pm and then had to run home and study for that test that’s coming up and finish that essay off that’s due for tomorrow and clean your dishes because your flatmate yelled at you last time you left them OH and then you had 715 whatsapp messages to reply to from friends planning this week’s night out which you can’t afford because YOU JUST SPENT £5 ON LUNCH.
Oh no, not stressed at all.
We get so accustomed to our hectic lives and schedules that I don’t think we realise how much of a toll it’s taking on us or that we’re actually very capable of changing it. Yet instead of sitting down and managing our time and getting on with what needs to be done, we procrastinate, the to-do list gets bigger, and the stress levels rise. Don’t get me wrong, life can be very, very stressful, but a lot of it can be filtered out. A lot of it is unnecessary stress, or “unnecessastress” as I like to call it. (See what I did).
It’s unnecessary because there’s no need to be stressed. Ever. Period.
All you’re doing when you stress is wasting your energies on something which serves neither you, nor your goal, nor anybody else any purpose. You don’t change anything by stressing. It doesn’t make a situation easier and it definitely doesn’t solve any problems, so why not use that energy on being productive, being organised, learning to chill and, in doing so, AVOIDING the stress? I’ve found there’s some really simple steps you can take as preventative measures against stress, so follow along my dears and I shall talk you through them.
1. Fix your environment
The first and most important step is to ensure that your environment is as stress-free as possible. You are a product of your surroundings. The places you spend a lot of time in, the people you spend a lot of time with, the things you spend a lot of time doing are the things which shape you. And if these are all stress-inducing, is it any surprise that you are stressed?
Your environment should be calm and clear and support you, as far as you can control. It should not be causing you stress. If it is, change it. Clear it out. Get rid of people and things which do not serve you. If being in the library stresses you out, find a new study spot. If talking to your classmates just leaves you feeling behind and worried about what they’re doing, spend less time with them. It sounds harsh, but it’s for the best. Getting picky about your crowd and your environment is the number one step for self-love and protection.
2. Look after yourself
If you’re going through a stressful time, you need to be doing all you can to care for yourself. Remember: the physical supports the mental. If your body isn’t feeling good and performing well, nor will your mind. If you’re eating rubbish, not getting outside, spending hours cooped up indoors, there is absolutely no chance that your body will be performing at its best and, NEWSFLASH, this has big effects on the way that you feel mentally. So take care of yourself. I’m not saying spend three hours in the gym every day. I’m saying be good to yourself. Sleep well, eat well, do some exercise, drink lots of water. It will make the world of difference. And you do have the time. Trust me.
3. Plan your time
Talking of time, good time management is crucial to anything you do. I strongly believe that a majority of our stress comes from time constraint. Think about it: all of those things which you are currently stressed out about right now would probably be easier if they didn’t have a deadline, right? Right.
Now, you can’t just throw your watch out the window and pretend that time doesn’t exist but you can get smart about your time and how you use it. If you’re going to work or study, do it. And do only that. How many hours have you wasted because you’ve sat down to focus, but you spent the first 20 minutes on your phone, and then you needed the bathroom, and then you wanted a snack, and then your mum phoned, and then you remembered you need to pay your rent, and then this and then that and before you know it, you’ve taken four hours to do what should have taken one?
You have the time. Don’t argue with me. If my friend can juggle his joint honours degree with a 30-hour working week, go to the gym every day and still find time to spend with his friends, you have the time for whatever you need to do. You just need to get smart about it.
So use your time wisely. Plan your time. Switch everything off, focus on one thing at a time, do it, do it WELL, and then move on to the next thing.
4. Plan your FUN
This sounds a bit contradictory, but bear with me. Whilst you are busy with step three and planning your time for work and productivity, don’t forget to plan your downtime. Your “you” time. Don’t forget that perhaps the most important things you do in your week are the things you do outside of work and studying and that if you stop doing these, you won’t feel good.
So schedule your time off, schedule your fitness classes or your sports, your reading time, your walking time, your coffee with friends: the things you do that you enjoy and give you peace. Before you do anything else, get them into your schedule. There was a study done which showed that students who plan out their study timetable and schedule in their downtime first tend to be the more successful ones. They perform and study better because they know that at 5pm on Tuesday they’ve got their time off at netball practice or whatever it is that they love to do. You want to be less stressed? Schedule in the fun, the stuff that’s important to you. Do this first. Get the balance sorted between your work and your play, and watch how your mindset changes.
5. Just chill out
Relax. Calm down. Breathe. In any situation you find yourself in, ask “what’s the worst that could happen?”. Be brutally honest. I would confidently say that, in 9 out of 10 cases, it’s never that bad. If you can do something to prevent the worst from happening, do it. Do it right now. If not, don’t worry about it. Acknowledging the worst possible outcome takes courage, preparing for it takes strength, but expecting it? Anticipating and stressing over it? That takes nothing but fear.
What do you think happens to problems left untouched? Where do you think they go? They don’t just disappear, do they? Like dust you sweep under the rug, they will stay there until you eventually deal with them.
So do that. Deal with problems, don’t stress about them. Worrying about things over which you have no control and you cannot change is such a tragic waste of your fantastic energy and life. So just chill. At the end of the day, you are a tiny person on a tiny planet in a tiny solar system: exams and work and responsibilities might seem like the most important things in the world but, in the grand scheme of things, whatever you’re stressing about probably isn’t too crucial. So just chill my friends. No more unnecessastress.
Thank you so much for reading. Please do take a browse around my blog if you enjoyed this post.