by Caroline Carney
Despite fall’s breathtaking landscapes and harvests, it is also a time of stress, with work, school, and all that life sends our way. As graduate students, stress becomes a way of life. We wake up with it and hit the pillow with thoughts of, “when will I have time to finish that paper?”
When we feel stress, our brain sends a cascade of hormones, like cortisol, coursing through our bloodstream. If this occurs over a long period of time, our eating habits, energy, immune system, and overall happiness suffer. Chronic stress should not be a part of anyone’s daily life. Check out these quick tips for how to de-stress. You don’t need much time, just the determination to show your stress who’s boss!
Sensory Perception: Treating your senses can do wonders for your stress level. Take a moment to visually absorb your surroundings. If you’re cooped up in the library scanning through PubMed, move your eyes away from the computer and look out the window. Take note of the neighboring building’s architecture, soak in the landscape—whether it’s trees and a blue sky or a sidewalk busy with pedestrians. A little reflection can help to calm the senses and refocus the mind. Even the change in your eye’s focal range will relax you. Pick up a candle with your favorite scent and burn it while you study to soothe you. Or make a slow-cook meal, which requires little attention, but rewards you with the aroma of the food as it cooks. Don’t forget touch. On mornings when you’re feeling overwhelmed, wear your favorite sweater or those well-worn corduroys and go kick your way through a pile of leaves.
Get Moving: Whether its hitting the gym, yoga, a bike ride, or a brisk walk, being active will give you time away from whatever is stressing you out and a chance to reflect on how to address and manage your source of anxiety. There is nothing like a little sweat to distract you from worries.
Nourishing Food: As students of nutrition, this is likely not a major issue, but eating habits do deteriorate as we become inundated with assignments and spend most of our day running from class to meeting to seminar and back. Hungry and pressed for time, those convenience foods and the take out menu are tempting fallbacks. However, highly processed foods give your body things it doesn’t want and can cause you to feel tired, moody, anxious, and cause weight gain. Take the time to stock your fridge once a week with easy-to-eat whole foods: carrots, spinach, avocados, yogurt, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. With a few whole ingredients it will take no time to whip up a simple, healthy meal that will give you the energy you need to get all that school work done.
Shut-Eye: Get to sleep each night at a reasonable hour (i.e. not 1AM) and don’t fall asleep watching TV. This can over-stimulate the senses and cause uneven sleep. Instead, grab a book you’ve been meaning to read or the Sunday newspaper and enjoy it in bed. This will calm your mind and get it ready for a good night’s sleep. You are more likely to wake up refreshed and ready to focus on the task at hand.
Caroline Carney is a second year Nutrition Communication student and is also working towards her Dietetic Internship. Like all students out there, she has her fair share of stress. Usually she deals with it by going for a run along the Charles with friends or cooking an elaborate meal.