As a high school student, I think I can speak for most of my peers in saying that over the past few years I have felt increased amounts of stress over many things, including but certainly not limited to my school workload and COVID-19 case numbers. In my case, I attribute a lot of these feelings to burnout.
Burn-out is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that is brought on by often or extended times of stress. Burn-out is typically seen as a more pressing issue with the working, adult population but I believe that the extra amounts of stress that have been piled onto our generation are causing these feelings to be felt earlier than typical.
In many cases, online/hybrid schooling contributed to stress about doing well enough in school to get into the college of your choosing or receiving a good scholarship. In some cases, there is also a constant stress of having to balance school, taking care of younger siblings, and working to help support your family.
Oftentimes, I find that a part of burn-out I tend to struggle with is overthinking what I can do to help myself feel better. That tends to make me feel worse because it just adds to the stress that I am already experiencing. Over the past few months I have been dealing with this issue and I have compiled a list of some of my recommendations for how to de-stress if you are ever feeling mentally exhausted and don’t know where to start.
Although this list isn’t in best to worst order, I do believe that sleep and getting proper rest are of utmost importance. Getting proper sleep is also linked to many of my other recommendations. There is a link between lack of sleep and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol in your body and feelings of stress and anxiety are only furthered when your body is physically exhausted. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased risk for heart attacks and strokes down the road. The CDC recommends 9-12 hours per every 24 hours if you are between 6 and 12 years old and that only goes down by 1 hour a night when you reach the ages of 13-18 with the CDC recommending 8-10 hours per every 24 hours. Getting the least amount of sleep is not a competition! Staying up all night studying will not make you smarter than studying in the day and getting proper rest at night!
I have found that journaling has greatly improved my stress levels. It is nice to have a time in my daily routine where I can sit and write down what I’ve been thinking. It helps me sort out my thoughts and understand better why I am feeling what I am feeling. If you are hesitant to journal because you are worried that people could find what you write, it is perfectly acceptable to write down your thoughts to sort them out in your head, and then shred the paper so that you reap the benefits of understanding your feelings but don’t have to stress about someone reading what you wrote. There are many websites with free journaling prompts if you aren’t sure where to start. There are also many books for sale that contain prompts and are meant for you to journal right inside them, but that is not necessary, all you need is a pencil or pen and a sheet of notebook paper.
I have to admit, this one is not one that I do often enough. I love how I feel when I read and how I feel after I finish a chapter or a book but I struggle to sit down and start reading because I always feel like there is something else that I could be doing that would be more beneficial. That is not true, though, reading is very beneficial. Reading prevents cognitive decline, fights depression, reduces stress, and can aid in sleep readiness.
Listening to Music & Podcasts
I am a huge podcast & music advocate. For a long time, those were some of the only things that I trusted to reduce my anxiety and stress. Listening to a comforting voice or song was something that I found would soothe me. I recommend listening to some of your favorite music when possible, no matter if it’s when you are taking a shower or doing your homework. Spotify and Pandora offer free access to music. I found that I loved podcasts about a year ago and never went back. Lots of podcasts release weekly episodes and that can help in starting a routine. One of my favorite parts of listening to podcasts is the consistency and routine that I get to develop. To find a podcast that you will like all you need to do is search for a topic you like followed by the word podcast, for example, I would search “True Crime Podcast” or “Conversational Podcast”. Podcasts are FREE on the Apple Podcasts app, Pandora, Spotify, and Audible.
Moving Your Body
I have found that moving my body is so incredibly helpful in making me feel better. I think that it is so important to get in a little bit of movement every day. I know that many people hate working out because many people associate the term “working out” exclusively with hardcore cardio that they don’t enjoy. That is not the case. Any sort of movement is vital for our mental health and can release endorphins. Some examples of moving your body are taking a walk around your neighborhood, doing a yoga workout that you found on YouTube, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. To enjoy movement, it’s important to find ways of movement that you love to do!
Getting Organized & Cleaning
I have recently been deep cleaning my room every Sunday and it starts my week off on a nice note. My possessions have their place and I know where everything is located and it has helped keep my room a stress-free environment. Each Sunday night, I love to write down what I have to do the next week. It helps me see my plan for the week so that I don’t have to stress about what I have coming up.
Limiting Social Media/Electronics Use
Over the summer, there was a day that I decided I was not going to go on social media. That day ended up being one of the best days ever. I had so much fun hanging out with my sister and friends and not having any distractions. A few weeks ago I decided that I was going to start not going on any social media past 8:00 pm so that my night would start on a good note and the extended blue light usage wouldn’t affect my sleep. It has been helping me get much sounder sleep and I have been feeling more rested. Being on our phones all of the time is increasing the amount of stress that we feel and attempting to limit the time that we spend on screens each day will help us feel better. Sometimes it is hard to limit screen time because so much of our school and homework is on the computer but a way of helping with that is taking frequent breaks to get up and walk around to give your eyes a break. Another way of giving your eyes a break is by using the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes of looking at a screen look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds and your eyes should get some rest and reset focus.
Those are just some ways that I have found to be helpful but they might not all work for you and that’s okay. I encourage trying out every item on this list and doing some more research to decide what methods may work best for you! Below is a picture of me doing one of my favorite things to I do to de-stress, visiting an art gallery!
If you are suffering from severe feelings of depression, talk to someone you trust or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.