Students can de-stress with these post-midterm relaxation ideas

UAA students can relax knowing that they survived midterms. The stress of studying, juggling schedules and grade anxiety can remain though. Some students can find that their shoulders are still tight, their sleep is still disturbed and worry about grades for important tests. There are some simple things students can do to decompress and de-stress.

A little fun in the snow is possible now at Hatcher Pass. Photo by Christina Swayney.

One easy way to instantly relax is to take a deep breath. Meditation is always an option, but can be intimidating for some.. A simple breathing exercise like the “4-7-8 relaxing breath,” which takes root in yogic breathing, is a quick and easy solution. This exercise requires the participant to sit still and breathe in and out using a specific sequence of breaths that will relax the mind and body. Anyone can do it and it takes only a few minutes.

For those who do not like to sit still, there is a form of moving meditation called daily task meditation. When doing stuff around the house like washing dishes, raking some leaves or taking a shower, focus on specific things and drown other noises out, like the sound of the water splashing on dishes, the smell of the autumn leaves or imagine all worries going down the drain with the water when showering. This type of mindfulness can be helpful to relax when there is little time to do so. One Mind Dharma offers several types of moving meditation.

Anxiety and racing thoughts are common problems not just for students, but also for Americans in general, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and boost health; two things that can be beneficial, especially in times of COVID-19. Take a chill walk and enjoy the pretty fall colors, do a workout at home with the many free options on YouTube or drive to Hatcher Pass and enjoy a winter preview playing in the snow but be advised that road conditions can be dangerous. UAA also offers free virtual exercise classes such as Pilates and yoga. Classes and dates can be found on the UAA Master Student Calendar.

Getting your mind off midterm grades or just school worries, in general, can be annoying. Taking a quick stretch and watching a program can be a mental respite. Rewatching shows or movies or replaying video games can soothe the psyche. Psychologist Neil Burton, the author of “Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions,” talks about why this is in a HuffPost article.

“Our every day is humdrum, often even absurd,” Burton explained. “Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life is not as banal as it may seem. It also tells us that there have been ? and will once again be ? meaningful moments and experiences,” Burton said.

Pets can be a source of comfort as well. A 2015 study conducted at Washington State University on college students called “Pet Your Stress Away,” showed stress reduction in students who interacted with cats and dogs during the school season. Pets can also get people moving by playing with the dog outside or putting a cat on a leash and taking it outside for a stroll.

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Sometimes stress can be unmanageable alone and students shouldn’t feel scared or embarrassed to ask for help. UAA has counseling services available to students virtually and through phone calls. The Student Health and Counseling Center has counselors that students can talk to confidentially and other mental health resources.

Interaction with people is important, even in these socially-distant times. There are ways to socialize and still be safe. Take a hike or a walk in the woods with some friends, getting fresh air at the same time. Have a study group in the park or a backyard. Making a fire and roasting marshmallows can be especially cozy this time of year as well. Virtual watch parties are also an option. Watching a scary Halloween film together on Zoom can be a lot of fun.

For more information about student stress and how to cope, visit the UAA Student Health and Counseling website or give them a call at (907) 786-4040.

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