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THE SJSU MA DIARIES

  • Andrew De La Cruz

Finding Balance: 5 Tips to Manage Stress


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Hey there! Are you feeling stressed out? If you’re anything like the 60% of college students who have reported feeling anxiety on a normal school day, then you’re definitely not alone. However, as common as stress and anxiety are in college, we all need our own ways of coping. Here are six tips that can help you manage stress and find balance in your college life!


1. Pomodoro Technique


The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management method invented in the 1980s by an Italian university student named Francesco Cirillo. Struggling to focus on his assignments, Cirillo picked up a timer shaped like a tomato (or “Pomodoro”, as it is called in Italian) and developed his simple but effective study method, the Pomodoro Technique. The method has since been used by countless students to be productive and prevent burnout.

His method is flexible and works as such:


  1. Set some goals for the study session.

  2. Set a timer for yourself to focus. I know it might be hard, but you’ll have to put your phone down for a while. (Common intervals are anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes each, but that’s completely up to you.)

  3. After your study interval, take a short break (5-10 minutes).

  4. Repeat this cycle for a total of four times, then give yourself a longer break (15 to 30 minutes away from your work).

  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you’ve completed your goals.


By devoting an achievable amount of time to focusing, you may be less likely to get distracted while working, especially if your phone is sitting down as your timer. However, the real magic is in those short 5-minute breaks you take in between! By taking several short breaks, you can avoid burning out from an excessive amount of work, while still keeping your brain and body in the mood to continue working. Those longer breaks will also feel much more rewarding, and can give you the chance to refresh your mind–especially for those mind-twisting homework questions. Experiment with the times you use until you find what works for you!


2. Schedule ahead!

We all know that feeling. You log into Canvas just to realize you’ve missed an important deadline or meeting. Your stomach sinks, your eyes double in size, and you frantically wonder how this could have happened. It’s these moments in life that we wish we could have been just a bit more organized.

Rest assured, because with a simple & free calendar app like Google Calendar, iCloud Calendar, or Todoist, you can easily organize your class schedules, deadlines, and meetings in one convenient and easy-to-use platform! Using these apps can keep us in check about when and where we need to be, and makes finding free time easier as well. Not everyone can be on time and present to everything, but with these calendar apps, we can definitely have a better shot. Having better time-management habits can also help you with the next step!


3. Get some sleep.


Stop sleeping on your sleep habits! Studies have found that college students rank sleep problems as their No. 2 cause of poor grades, only behind stress. Getting between 6-8 nightly is one of the most important things we can do for our health -- and it feels great! By practicing better time-management and productivity habits, we can free up time to get some well-deserved sleep after a long day of work. Putting your phone away, watching your alcohol consumption, and listening to calming sounds like the crackle of a fireplace on a rainy night can help you reach dreamland and improve your quality of sleep. If you often have trouble with sleeping, this next tip can help you get there.


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4. Meditation


“Taking a breath” might actually be better for you than you think. Did you know that by simply doing breathing exercises for just a few minutes each day, you could improve your focus, lower anxiety levels, and even manage pain? Meditation and other mindfulness techniques have been practiced for centuries, usually for spiritual practices and traditions. However scientific research from places such as Harvard University attest to meditation’s positive effects on both mental and physical health.

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Health devices like the Apple Watch have integrated mindfulness techniques to guide users through breathing exercises throughout the day. Apps like Headspace and Calm have also been growing in popularity due to their guided meditations that can easily introduce anyone to the concept of mindfulness. Even five minutes a day of meditation can help your mood and focus remain bright and clear, just like our last tip….

(Headspace is currently offering an annual student subscription for $9.99, down from $79.)


5. Sunshine!

Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that, when released, helps your body reduce depression, heal wounds, lower anxiety, and regulate levels of happiness. Exposure to the sun, our life-bringing star in the sky, can stimulate the release of serotonin in our brains, as well as the bone-growing and mood-stabilizing Vitamin D. Seasonal depression exists because of this -- when we don’t see the sun, we have less access to these important, mood-changing chemicals.

As students, we have much to gain from the sunshine. In the face of heavy workloads and high expectations, a dash of sunlight can at least give us a sprinkle of positivity and rejuvenation, especially after long, dark nights spent doing assignments.

Just don’t get sunburned!

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These are only 5 out of a countless number of ways we can help ourselves find balance in a world seemingly dictated by deadlines and meetings. Some might work for you, and other may not. The important thing is that you’re still here, putting in the effort you want to put in :)


Did I miss a stress-management technique? If so, drop one in the comments below!