Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As someone who has struggled with many psychiatric illnesses in the past, excessive stress tends to result in remerging symptoms of my issues. However, over the past year, I have come up with various coping mechanisms and strategies to relieve my anxiety and dissuade my symptoms. Although, these tips are applicable to absolutely everyone, not just those of us who deal with mental illness, so check out what helps me relax in stressful times.

 1) Exercise

Whether it’s yoga, pilates, or a run on West Sands, I find exercise to be really helpful in calming me down. The key thing to remember is to not overdo the exercise in which you partake. A spirited 15 minute run can be more helpful than running until exhaustion and burning lungs. While I personally find yoga to be painfully boring, the after-effect of attending a class is so wonderful. My muscles are stretched, my body is warm, and my mind is quiet. Overall, I find that exercising makes me feel good because I have accomplished something, even if I am frustrated with an overwhelming amount of studying.

 2) Nutritious meals

I find that many students have a tendency to go on a Tesco run and buy loads of snacks. I myself am guilty of that. However, while it is quick and convenient, it is much better for your body and mind to consume cooked meals instead of processed food. I have come up with a few different foods that I can make quickly, and are nourishing.

Porridge cooked with milk or water, sprinkled with some nuts, berries, brown sugar, or whatever toppings you like is a good option if you fancy something sweet. If possible, choose the natural variety as the quick oats have been processed to the point that they have very few nutrients.

Avocado toast is another healthy alternative to processed snacks. I mash up an avocado (or two!) and add olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli peppers, and lime! Some people also add tuna. Then I toast my bread, wait for it to cool down, and pile on the avocado mixture! It is so filling and absolutely delicious.

Another meal option is chicken noodle soup. I buy chicken breasts and cut them up into pieces, add in celery, carrots, spices and some chicken bouillon. I let it cook for a while and then add in pasta or barley, and voila! It takes much longer, but if you make a large pot of it, you can store the rest and have it at the ready to eat when you want.

If you fancy something smaller to snack on, then fruit such as apples and bananas are always a good option. I eat so many bananas! I eat them plain, but I like them most with Nutella! You can make apples more appealing by adding some peanut butter. However, it’s important to get the peanut butter that doesn’t contain a lot of added sugar, since it defeats the purpose of eating it.

3) A long shower or bath

There is nothing like a warm bath on a cold, rainy day, which is not uncommon in Scotland! I find them so relaxing, and they allow me to take some time for myself and sit in silence or listen to some relaxing music. For extra relaxation, I’ll add delicious smelling soap or bubbles. Another good idea is to add essential oils such as lavender.

4) A mini at-home spa session.

I will wash my face and put a clay mask on my face and coat myself in body lotion. Also I will shave my legs, wash my hair with deliciously smelling shampoo and conditioner and file my nails. All of this takes little to no time, and is a great way to feel good about yourself. I always find that being clean makes me more motivated to work.

 5) Sleep

Last but absolutely not least is sleep! Never underestimate a power nap. However, it is important to set an alarm and actually wake up, and not spend the rest of the day sleeping (I am very guilty of this). Once you get over the initial grogginess, you feel instantly refreshed! The necessary amount of sleep per night differs for many people and not all need the suggests eight hours. The most important bit is to have a restful sleep. I usually wear an eye mask and sometimes fall asleep listening to soothing music. Something else that is helpful is a humidifier with essential oils. The consistency of a gentle smell makes me fall asleep faster.

Good luck!

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