Dear Guardian Gurl,
I’ve got midterms this week and I’m already struggling to keep up with regular assignments in addition to work, participating in school organizations, and just living in the middle of a pandemic! Any advice when it comes to finding healthy coping skills to deal with this whole year and such?
Dear Seriously Stressed,
I am so happy to get this question! Fear not my friend, I’ve got loads of coping mechanisms to share with you. The best thing to do first is to start with the basics: are you drinking enough water (or any at all)? Are you getting good sleep? When was the last time you ate? It is so easy to forget to do these things throughout the day! Remember, a large iced coffee or a can of Yerba Mate cannot sustain you, especially not with only five hours of sleep the night before.
Once you’ve covered the basics, move on to making time to do the things that bring you joy. Get your water bottle, a good snack, and sit on the couch to catch up on your favorite show (or if you’re like me, watch some reruns of your “comfort” movie or TV show). If you feel up to it, get outside for a walk if you’re able to! If you feel called to, knock out some of those dishes in the sink, straighten up your room, or maybe vacuum. When you’re stressed out, feeling like your mind is all over the place, it is not particularly helpful if your physical surroundings match that anxious energy. A tidy room with some open windows for fresh air will lighten your mood and help your focus.
If you find yourself so stressed out or anxious that you start to feel super overwhelmed and/or a panic attack starting, there are ways to help combat those emotions when they’re running high! One thing to focus on is your breathing: try out a box breathing exercise, where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and then hold again for four seconds before repeating the cycle. Focusing on the breath and counting out those seconds can help lower your heart rate. Another thing that seems silly, but is proven to be effective is putting an ice pack on your forehead. I don’t know how to explain the science behind it, but essentially what happens is that the cold shocks your brain and forces it to focus on the cold temperature instead of whatever is making you anxious, allowing your body time to come back down.
Hopefully some of these strategies help you get through these next few weeks. Remember, midterm stress is temporary and you can navigate your way through it! You got this!
“xoxo guardian gurl” is the UCSD Guardian’s newest advice column. Fill out the form at tinyurl.com/ask-guardian-gurl to ask Guardian Gurl any questions.