With exams and coursework deadlines occupying our minds, and endless piles of books taking over our desks, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep stress levels down. Stress can be detrimental to our quality of work and our health. Sure, things like a healthy diet, enough sleep and yoga sessions can help reduce stress, but let’s be realistic – any spare time we have will be spent watching television to take us away from the nightmare that is exam season. The mere thought of putting aside valuable time to reduce stress is stressful! So here are some tips for a quick and instant fix of relaxation.

1.      Breathing exercises (total time: 1- 2 minutes): It is common knowledge that breathing in and out slowly can induce relaxation. However, it is important to involve the mind in this activity to achieve a good level of relaxation. It is undeniable that while you’re breathing in and out, your mind will still be listening to that ticking clock. As you breathe in imagine you are breathing in white for relaxation, and as you breathe out picture breathing out red or black for stress- imagine it leaving your body entirely and vanishing into thin air. Loosen up any tension in your muscles as you breathe out and feel all the stress and tension dissolve. You can play around with this technique, for example you can imagine breathing in yellow for positivity and black for negativity. Do whatever works best for you.

2.      Stick the kettle on (total time: 2 mins) There is a reason the world loves to indulge in a hot cup of tea. It turns out that black tea significantly lowers cortisol (the stress hormone). Chamomile tea is also exceptionally good for depleting your stress levels. Unfortunately, whilst we’re typing away our essays and pouring over books, coffee is the preferred hot beverage, but if your energy levels are reasonable keep away from coffee as its high caffeine content can stimulate a stress response!

3.      Hugs and kisses (total time: under 1 min): Hugging has shown to release oxytocin levels and cut out the stress. However, this method is only effective with people you feel close to.  If you aren’t comfortable hugging somebody, then don’t do it! Having your space invaded against your will can actually release cortisol and create more stress. Kissing has also shown to counteract stress through the release of endorphins. Again, don’t kiss somebody if you’re not comfortable doing so! If you are, then don’t assume everybody else is comfortable with you doing so (example: observers in Pilkington Library).

4.      Application of Lavender scent: In the world of Aromatherapy, Lavender is renowned for its ability to eliminate stress and anxiety. If you have anything that smells like Lavender then make good use of it; applying it to your pillow at night can help combat those sleepless nights.

5.      ‘Being present’ meditation (5 mins): Just for five minutes, stop what you’re doing and get up. Walk around for a couple of minutes, going wherever you feel like going. Take notice of your surroundings, observe everything as if you had newly entered this world and had never witnessed a thing in your life. Run your hands under water, if you want, and just appreciate the way the water leaps from the tap and play around with the water as if you’d never seen or felt it before. Or go outdoors and just feel what it’s like to have the wind hit your face for a minute – be present, be simple-minded. This might seem strange, but this meditation refreshes you and calms your mind by bringing you back down to a state of equanimity.  

Emma Spencer


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