5 Stress Relieving Tips

Picture this: you’re walking between buildings to your next class when that acquaintance whom you haven’t seen since JumpStart asks, “How are you?”. You smile and wave as the obligatory “I’m good! How’re you?” slips out of your mouth… Are you though?

No, really.

Take a moment to think about how your stress levels have been. 

With a new semester comes new responsibilities, changes in friend group dynamics, and a completely different workload. Having new pressures pile on at the start of the semester is almost always expected, if not inevitable. How we decide to respond to that stress, however, speaks multitudes of our character. Take these next few minutes to breathe deeply and apply a tip (or two, or five) in your life as a busy student this semester.  

Tip #1: Get outdoors

Okay, before you click away, let me remind you that getting outside when you feel that stress starting to pile on will do a multitude of good for your semester. Not only is getting the daily dose of vitamin D good for the physical being, but it also corresponds to a healthy mental state. Even your spiritual state can be refreshed by just taking time to honor God through the use and appreciation of His creation. What are you waiting for? Get out there! Autumn is finally in Watertown—get outside with a friend or two to watch the leaves turn at iconic spots such as Devil’s Lake or Holy Hill. Our surrounding Wisconsin area will not be running out of beautiful places to explore any time soon.  

Tip #2: Find your creative outlet

I may seem bold to suggest that you add yet another thing to your absolutely crazy schedule, but it is also proven that having a creative outlet as a way to let off steam or express emotion is a great tool for college students. Your outlet could be anything from learning a new instrument (did you know that the Watertown Public Library allows you to check out ukuleles if you are a cardholder?), to perfecting your green thumb, to learning how to do basic maintenance on your own car. Whatever hobby you may pick up, allow yourself to genuinely appreciate the moments you have to focus on a passion separate from school. Remember that your outlets do not have to break the bank and consider bringing a friend or two along on the journey! 

Tip #3: Take the focus off yourself

Friend, can I assert that the moment you become too self-focused is when the stressors of this life will start to feel like they have more power than they do? College is known as being a great time to focus on oneself, but we can often skew a well-intentioned piece of advice and quickly morph into the narcissistic coffee addicts we see in the mirror. When you are so focused on yourself and your stress, every little task can feel overwhelming. That puddle you had to mop up is suddenly Lake Michigan and you find yourself defeated before you’ve even had a chance to bring your battle before the Father’s throne. 

Rather than only focusing on yourself, I challenge you to be intentional with the semester and opportunities in front of you. Perhaps this looks like finding someone you can invest in long-term. Or, perhaps this means finally getting involved in church ministry or asking more questions about your society’s involvement in the community. Maybe taking the focus off yourself simply means taking time to learn more about your roommates and being more intentional about time spent with them this semester. Be wise about accomplishing what you are called to do without developing tunnel vision. Take the focus off yourself! 

Tip #4: Do the next thing 

Did you know that sometimes the kindest thing a person can do is cut you off while you’re complaining? A few semesters ago I experienced this kindness when a certain beloved professor stopped me mid-rant and said five little words that changed my life forever: “Just do the next thing.” I had zoomed out of the picture to the point where I began panicking about work that was two months away rather than focusing on the tasks at hand. When stress seems to pour out of every part of your day, remember to pour out some grace for yourself (and others) and to just do the next thing. We are only asked to do our best—and for God’s glory rather than our own.  

Tip #5: Spend more time with Jesus 

Any student can relate to how the busyness of a schedule can negatively affect relationships with others. It’s easy to get lost in your sea of work, only to realize that you haven’t talked to that friend (or even worse, haven’t called your mom!) for weeks at a time. Just as you need to be intentional in not neglecting friends or family during times of stress, make it a point to not forget your relationship with God or let it turn into routine amidst the hustle of the semester.

Rather, I assert that you should be leaning even more into who He is when you see how crazy schedules and workloads are becoming. Instead of putting aside devotions and prayer time, utilize your direct access to His Word and His throne room! God uses stressful times to grow His children, and how we respond now is shaping who we will become. While this is a counter-cultural idea these days, remember that we, as humans, are not equipped to be the sole provider of our peace. Fully rely on Jehovah-Shalom (the LORD is Peace) instead. The Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to do just this in Philippians 4:7-9. Take time today to thank the Lord for what you will learn from this season and ask for His strength and peace to sustain you. 

So, friend—just how are you handling stress these days? As you settle into this semester’s routine, consider utilizing these five tips. Take a step away from the textbooks, assignments, and papers when possible and do something to engage your brain and body in a fun and meaningful way. Whether this means going outdoors or exploring a new creative outlet, recognize that taking care of your headspace and physical self will help you as you navigate stressful situations. Remember to take the focus off yourself and to just do the next right thing. Relax those shoulders, unclench your jaw, take a few deep breaths, and rest in the knowledge that the Prince of Peace has promised to provide for you.