De-Stress this Season in 10 Steps or Less

‘Tis the season to unwind, reflect back on the year, and prepare for next year. However, it is also a time many people increase their level of stress. (Holidays can do that to a person.) Nursing school is stressful, but there are influences outside of school that can add to the stress that is already there. Learning to handle stress and alleviate it in a healthy manner is a skill that pays off in the long run and can be applied not only in nursing school. Take the time this season to focus on de-stressing.

Here are 10 tips to help de-stress your holiday season, so you can start the new year off with a positive attitude. Take a 10- to 15-minute break when the stress starts to build up, and experiment with these de-stressing tips:

      1. Listen to your favorite music. Take a break from studying, holiday shopping, or pesky relatives that talk politics to unwind. Lie down on your back, listen to your music, and breath. As a relaxation technique, music is shown to help people escape from stress. Another great musical tip, especially if you can’t focus in silence, is to listen to Hans Zimmer Pandora.  The music has no distracting lyrics and the scores are intended to motivate and relax you.
      2. Stretch and meditate. Focus on how it feels to help eliminate stress. Many of us tend to study in awkward positions, hurting our necks and back.  Rolling your neck and stretching your back will help you feel more comfortable and alleviate some of that stress in your body. The art of meditation is to calm the mind and focus on your body. Focus on breathing by taking deep breaths and escape the world for a few minutes.
      3. Stand up and get moving. If meditating is not for you or you have been sitting longer than 20 minutes, it is recommended to go for a short walk to refocus and get out of the slump. Plus, sitting for long periods of time is not advisable. Simply moving your body helps blood circulation as well as refreshes the mind. For example, when studying gets a bit tedious, taking a walk or getting up to stretch will do wonders. Do 20 jumping jacks, jump rope, or even just dance.
      4. Color away the stress. There are great adult coloring books out there as well as free printable coloring pages and apps designed to help adults relax. Placate the inner child and grab a coloring book. Coloring requires focus, design, and various colors. Set aside the tasks at hand or thoughts that are causing stress and try some color therapy. Coloring is said to develop focus and mindfulness. In a world filled with distractions and stress-inducing situations, learning to refocus is vital.
      5. Laugh it out. A popular technique is to just laugh. After all, laughter is the best medicine. Take a break and spend a few minutes watching or reading something funny. There is a lot of power in laughter. Ever heard of Norman Cousins? He laughed death in the face and defeated a painful disease that doctors said couldn’t be helped. Simply put, Cousins suffered from a connective tissue disorder, resulting in terrible bouts of pain. Doctors did what they could but in the end, Cousins continued to have pain. He checked in to a hotel and watched numerous hilarious videos. Cousins lived years longer than doctors suspected and experienced little pain after. Does it prove laughter has healing properties? No one knows, but what Cousins’ story shows us is the power of laughter.
      6. Act. Squeezing a stress ball or punching a pillow can help get some of that stress out that has been bottled up. People today find exercising a great stress reliever that motivates them to lift more weights than yesterday, run that extra mile, and do five more pull ups than before. Bottled up stress is dangerous to the person and those around them. To avoid snapping under pressure, find an outlet to channel the stress by getting active and using it as motivation to challenge yourself. It can be something as simple as punching a pillow or as intense as putting on a boot camp-style workout video and spending 15 to 30 minutes breaking a sweat.
      7. Write. For some, writing is a way of removing stress. Whether it is escaping into a fictional world or writing goals for the week, writing does amazing things to the mind when it comes to relaxation. Write down some of the things you or grateful for and reasons why your goal (of becoming a nurse!) is so important to you. This will help you focus on what is important in your life and be a visual reminder to you.
      8. Take a shower and wash off some of that stress. Sometimes to decrease the amount of stress is as simple as hopping in a shower. Showers and baths are therapeutic, which is why people recommend showers as a time to unwind. The hot water also helps improve blood circulation, relieves stiff muscles such as in the neck and shoulders (refer to point 2 above). Using some aromatherapy scents in the shower, like lavender, can be extremely helpful.
      9. Pet an animal. Animals are known to help alleviate stress. By petting or playing with an animal, oxytoin is released, which is known as the stress-reducing hormone. For example, therapy animals are widely used in a variety of settings. From treating Alzheimer patients to helping young children learn to care for an animal, animals have an incredible influence on humans. It must be those big eyes and loving heart that captures us all.
      10. Think positive. The power of the mind is incredible, as you all know. The glass-half-empty mentality should be replaced quickly with the glass-half-full idea. Understanding that stressful situations will arise and being able to reframe it to see the positive and the benefits of completing the challenge changes your whole perception. “You do not need to be a victim of worry. Reduced to its simplest form, what is worry? It is simply an unhealthy and destructive mental habit.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Next time you find yourself ready to pull your hair out or dealing with an early mid-life crisis, remember to take a break and find activities that will decrease stress. Stress has been shown to decrease the immune system, influence hair loss, initiate weight gain, bring on depression, and other unfortunate outcomes. When all else fails, unplug yourself by taking a vacation, spending time with loved ones and friends, and enjoy the time. For situations that cannot be avoided, reward yourself after with a treat or event that will allow you to let go and slow down.