10 Stress Reduction Tips

Stressed Frog - Managing stress at UNH and in college.

10 Stress Reduction Tips

You can reduce unwanted stress or manage it productively by using these top 10 strategies.

Limit self-judgment

Talk kindly to yourself, turning off the “negative tape player.” Say things like “I am stressed and this will pass.” Reversing negative ideas and focusing on positive outcomes can help you to reduce tension and achieve goals. Reinforce positivity by writing and reading positive quotes or phrases and surrounding yourself with positive people.

Get help from others

Tapping into our support networks helps us to feel understood, capable, and nurtured. Sometimes just expressing your feelings helps lower your stress. And if you’ve had a serious illness or have had an emergency to respond to, remember that you can get an extension on a paper or other project. Don’t be afraid to ask. Your professors and advisors are there to support you.

Express your feelings

If you can’t discuss your feelings with your support network, express them some other way. Write in a journal, write a poem, or compose a letter that is never mailed.

Work to reduce or manage the impact of major stressors in your life

One way of monitoring your stress level and identifying sources of stress is to keep a daily stress log. Note activities that put a strain on energy and time, trigger anger or anxiety, or precipitate a negative physical response. Also note your reactions to these stressful events. Review the log and identify 2 or 3 stressful events or activities that you can modify or eliminate. For example, if getting started on writing assignments tends to be difficult, you can get support from the Writing Center on campus.

Do just one thing at a time

(That’s all you really can do anyway!) When working, focus on one thing at a time. Switching from one task to another without fully completing the first task allows for variety, but usually wastes time and decreases productivity. Make a list and prioritize the things you need to get done. Start a new assignment only after you’ve completed an earlier one. When you feel overwhelmed by many things that need to be done at the same time, your stress level will increase. Plan around the things you find stressful to lessen the effects of stress. Managing your time effectively will even out your workload.

Know and accept your limits

Are you taking a full courseload, working part-time and involved in a lot of activities? Learning to say no is an important part of reducing stress and will help you focus on what’s really important.

Learn and practice relaxation techniques

Relaxation is the body’s antidote for the stress response. Relaxation lowers blood pressure, respiration, and pulse rates. Combining several techniques, for example, deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, meditation, and massage therapy can significantly lower stress levels. Yoga or tai chi can be very effective, combining many of the benefits of breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation while toning and stretching the muscles. They also elevate mood and improve concentration and ability to focus.

Know that good nutrition and exercise are your friends

General health and stress resistance can be enhanced by regular exercise, a diet rich in a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and by avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.

Get a good night’s sleep

We need sleep to think clearly, react quickly and create memories. It’s well documented that students who regularly get a good night’s sleep perform significantly better than sleep-deprived students. REM sleep, most of which occurs towards the end of a full night’s sleep, is particularly important for consolidating newly learned information.

Make it a priority to do something low pressure and enjoyable

Get crafty (art, scrapbooking, writing/journaling), listen to music, get physical (walk, run, dance, do yoga), get outside, or just give yourself a few minutes off from what you are doing to do simply nothing. Don’t be afraid to take a break when you are studying or writing a paper. Schedule it in! A 20-minute power nap can re-energize you for hours and a brisk walk around the block can help to clear your head and put your thoughts in order.