How to de-stress after the semester

Illustration by Madison Cohen

It comes in waves. It comes in patterns. It can show up in your work and just about every area of your life.


To some extent, stress affects everyone. It can be induced from school, work, family and everything in between.

Stress is something that manifests itself and may become so severe it leads to mental and physical illness, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can cause anxiety, sleep deprivation and even depression. The Harvard Health Department also attests that stress may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and overall immune system suppression.

One of the best options to control stress is as simple as breathing. Deep breaths allow one to handle the day to day things which elicit that flight-or-fight response.

Although at first, deep breathing may seem unnatural, breath control is a technique often used in yoga and many religious practices. Deep breaths encourage full oxygen exchange, an enormously beneficial proponent when it comes to slowing one’s heartbeat and stabilizing blood pressure.

“Essentially, there are lots of different breath retention exercises that can trigger certain things in your body, like a sense of calmness, control, and stability,” said Catie Nicewonger, a yoga instructor at ESenEM.

“I’d say my number one move when I’m stressed is to breathe deeply. Like even today, the fire alarms went off at the studio and the chaos got me feeling stressed [and] jumpy,” said Nicewonger. “I remember asking my teacher if she could only pick one ‘yoga thing’ to do every day what would it be, and she said pranayama, which is breath work.”

Here are some tips on how to practice pranayama.

Find a quiet place in or outdoors to set your heart at ease by focusing on the rise and fall of your chest. Allow your mind to drift and every worry to melt away just for five minutes. Feel your heartbeat fall with the sinking of your shoulders after a heavy breath. Take your mind away from your stress. After the exercise, you may have the ability realize how to tackle your problems with ease, while staying mindful of your well-being.

Another benefit which can be combined with breath work is fresh air. Fresh air serves many purposes that can be great for de-stressing.

The outdoors and fresh air cleans out your lungs, creates focus and energizes according to the American Heart Organization (AHO).

“Research shows that a 90-minute walk in nature lowers activity in the part of the brain linked to negative rumination. The same walk in an urban setting doesn’t have the same effect,” according to the AHO website.

Fresh air can be attained as easily as opening a window. On rainy days, the sounds of water hitting pavement can occupy your room and the refreshing scent of rain washing away the impurities on the ground can replace the sounds of a humming heater and the artificial scent of a candle. On sunny days, chirping birds and fresh sunlight can outshine even the best air conditioners.

Allowing yourself to take in nature’s resources can open up new windows to stress management, some doctors are even prescribing it in the United Kingdom, according to CNN.

Open a window by your desk at work, sit under a tree, turn off your phone for two whole hours and get outside. Take a walk down the street and take the time to revel in the cleansing power that only nature can offer. You can reset your mind and cleanse your body by taking in the fresh air that surrounds us.

Unplugging social media for one day out of the week can have serious health benefits. The hustle and bustle of the 24/7 glow of the Internet can be linked to a rise in mental health concerns, according to a study conducted by Bradley University.

By releasing yourself from social media, it allows you to maximize your time during the day. This can free up the day and decrease the added time-precious stresses in life. It also allows you to take a step back and assess how the impacts of social media trends and social media standards really do not have to take a toll on your mental health. You allow yourself moments to stop comparing and to really value you, for you.

Set aside one hour of your day, morning or night. Take out your phone and turn it off. Set aside that time to not worry about it. Consciously analyze how often you tend to grab your phone in an effort to read a notification or check on something. Notice the more often you practice this, the less often you reach for it. This allows you to be present in your endeavors fully and completely.

For three days, set aside time to de-clutter your mind through the work of breath control, nature and unplugging. It is important to invest in time for yourself, this allows you to work, think and feel more efficiently.

Start by opening the window more. Allow all of the fresh goodness of the outdoors to enter your home. Take more walks and understand the many overlapping benefits of Mother Nature. Turn off your phone for as little as 30 minutes. For this time, do something for you. Pick up a book, turn on some Netflix or just lay in bed for a little bit longer.

But most of all, just breathe.