By Lorena Grajales, News Editor–
This semester has been hectic, busy, fast-paced, and troubling all at once. And I’m sure many other students can relate as well. From the transition to online learning, the ongoing and worsening pandemic, the Presidential election, racial tensions and more, stress levels have been at an all time high. Because of this, I’ve found myself feeling unmotivated and unfocused at times. And that’s when I realize those feelings are completely okay, and I shouldn’t beat myself up for feeling drained because taking care of your mental health is detrimental for overall happiness and productivity.
According to the CDC, mental health includes our psychological, social, and emotional well-being that impacts our decision-making. I’ve found a few exercises that have helped me cope with stress levels and clear my head space. Thanks to UTC’s Counseling Center’s Instagram page, I found the magic of square breathing. And although it may sound strange, it makes sense when you put it to the test.
Essentially, square breathing involves inhaling for four seconds, then holding your breath for four more seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and finally holding that stance for the last four seconds. This process gets repeated four times to get the full advantages of square breathing. I have found that this exercise not only relaxes my mind, but also makes me feel like I’m releasing my stress and anxious thoughts while clearing my mind.
I follow a certain Instagram page called “anxiety_wellbeing” that helped me change my perspective on my everyday life. I’ve learned to let go of the situations I can’t change and direct my focus on the things I can control such as what I eat, what I do in my leisure time, and how I manage my time. Being aware of the things that I am in control of helps me realize a big chunk of my emotions are up to me, and that my attitude towards what I can’t control is vital to my well-being as well.
A few other tips to de-stressing that I’ve found to be helpful are to sit down or lay in a comfortable position, drop your shoulders, and then unclench your jaw. After this, you can scan your body and release all tension while taking deep breaths. We tend to tense up our body without realizing it, and then carry on like that through our day, which can add on to the already built-up stress.
I’ve also found that taking time for myself, even if it’s just a short break, helps me calm down and unwind from classes, note-taking, studying, tests, and assignments. I usually treat myself to this time after completing a few tasks on my agenda, which motivates me to work towards a reward. Activities I tend to do are watching a YouTube video, watching a short episode on Disney Plus, watching some Tik Tok videos, playing with my two dogs and cats, or doing my makeup even if I’m not going anywhere.
Afterwards, I feel refreshed and ready to move forward with my to-do list. I know we are all living through uncertain and complicated times right now, however taking care of yourself first is the best way you can help loved ones who may be experiencing similar overwhelming emotions. I encourage everyone to prioritize their mental health and build a plan to ease any anxiety they might be feeling. Whether it’s through physical exercises, playing a game, talking with friends, or any method that improves clear thinking, we all deserve to be kind to ourselves.