Mental Health Hacks For When School Is Too Much

Written by Sarah January 

Photo by Jess Epting, Graphic by Hina Imtiaz

Photo by Jess Epting, Graphic by Hina Imtiaz

I almost always loved school. With a curious mind and a slight obsession with learning, school was usually extremely fun for me. Sure I struggled with some classes in high school ( aka: chemistry...ewww) but none of them were so hard that they seemed impossible. When I first went to college, same thing. It wasn’t until I had to take an upper level physiology class that I really started to feel the pressure. In all honesty, I’ve never had to work so hard to not fail a class as I did with that one. That moment right there should have been a sign that things were about to get pretty rough, and that is exactly how four years later I ended up burnt out, sick, and hating life. All because I had absolutely no stress management skills. The list below is one that I know will help you out when school in particular gets to be too damn much. 

Breathe: The Right Way 

On average we breathe in and out around 23,000 times a day. The human body is such an amazing thing that it does it so efficiently that you don’t have to consciously think about it. Sadly though, more of us should be thinking about it because of the simple fact that most people are breathing the wrong way. You heard me. You are probably doing it wrong. If you aren’t, it is likely that someone you know is. ‘ How can you breathe wrong?’ you ask. By simply not using the correct muscles to do so. In general, when we take a deep breath, we use the muscles in our chest and sometimes even our neck and shoulders to do so. The muscles you really should be using are your abs in order to really get that full breath- this is often known as belly breathing. When you start to feel stressed or panicky, it really does help to step away and take a few deep breaths and calm your system. 

Work It Out 

It is fairly common knowledge that getting in a good work out can be a huge stress reliever. The body is designed to move, so when you do, your body gets happy! It is hard to stay super stressed when your body is shooting off wonderful little endorphins into your system right? Though the effects are not permanent, if you work out consistently your body is in happy hormone land more than it is not. Oh and if you were thinking sweaty gym workouts with tons of weights and buff bodybuilder guys giving you the evil eye is what is required, you would be wrong. In 2019, workouts can take on many different forms. Sure it can include weightlifting (a personal favorite of mine), or it can be yoga, dance class, swimming, rock climbing, pilates, the list goes on.  Do something to move your body in some way and it will thank you.  

Get Out In Nature

Photo by Briggy Jones

Photo by Briggy Jones

One of the things I loved most about the campus where I went to college was the amazing rose garden and green spaces that were available to the students. With a super busy schedule, it was not always possible to take trips out of town, so at times going to visit the garden would have to do. When there was time to take a trip, my friends and I would get out in nature as much as possible. Places like Lake Tahoe and Pismo Beach are among my favorites for hiking, swimming and just getting away from the pull of everyday life. For most folks there is something calming and relaxing about getting away from city or campus life. Being able to touch the dirt, breathe clean air, drink pure water, and see the stars gives you a chance to clear your head. Hit the reset button and get out there and smell the roses. 

Eat Well

When you get to college, eating healthy usually falls to the bottom of your list of priorities. With access to way too much food that isn’t good for you, parties on the weekend, and sometimes barely having time to eat, diet is often the last thing on a college student’s mind. This is a growing problem and unfortunately people don’t always realize you really are what you eat. If junk is going in, you are very likely going to feel like crap. This isn’t to say you should never have a cookie or a candy bar or a beer, but moderation with those things is key. When you eat well, your body chemistry changes and you will feel better. 

Cuddle Up

Touch is one of the main ways that we as humans show affection. More and more in our society this is becoming a rare occurrence. It has been clinically shown that touch is an integral part of our sense of well-being. I know that I love the feeling of being safe and snuggled up with my blanket or favorite hoodie. That feeling is only beat by cuddling up with my significant other or an adorable puppy. In those moments, you can almost feel the stress melt away. Though touch is often over sexualized in our culture today, it doesn’t need to be sexual in order to relieve stress. If soft fabrics or physical warmth have a calming effect on you, cuddle up and hide from the world for a bit when it just gets too loud

ASMR  To Help You  Sleep 

Over the last two years I have discovered a little something called ASMR. Let me tell you, it has completely changed my sleeping habits for the better. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is often a tingly sensation the body feels when this response is  triggered. There are many different categories of “triggers”, but the end goal is ultimately to help you relax. By hearing certain sounds or seeing certain movements, the brain interprets them in such a way that it gives you these fun tingles. These tingles then cause your body to eventually fall into a lower state of euphoria.  The concept of ASMR is not new, but it has started to become more mainstream over the last few years. You now have access to tons of ASMR videos and audios on youtube and podcasts. If you are feeling overwhelmed, find some place to relax, pop those headphones in, and drift away. 

Binge Watch

One way that young people escape these days is via streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. TV watching, generally speaking, gets a bad rap but I am here to say that a little binge watching never hurt anyone. There are times when you have worked so hard and so long that your brain is completely overloaded. It is those times where a good binge watch is often in order. Don’t be afraid to stay in on a Friday night, snuggle up with some hot chocolate and pick your favorite show to relax and watch. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and many others provide streaming services so you have your pick. If you are a Netflix subscriber, check out Angie’s article 10 Netflix Shows You Need To Watch Before It’s Too Late for a little inspiration. 

Take a Bath or Shower

Photo by Briggy Jones

Photo by Briggy Jones

Fun fact about me: I’m a Pisces and a California girl, so this suggestion of mine should make perfect sense. When you are super stressed or overwhelmed, get in the water! Usually this means taking a bubble bath or a hot shower, but it can also mean a pool, lake, or beach. There is something about the water that is calming to the body. It may have to do with the fact that our bodies are 60% water, or that we just feel better when we are clean. Whatever it is, water is undeniably good for your body and mind. 

Let It Out  

When you get caught up in the busy schedules of school and are trying to balance classes with work, and friends, significant others, bills, and other countless things, it can be easy to neglect your feelings. There are those of us that have a tendency to bottle up all those thoughts until we reach a breaking point. I can tell you from personal experience that operating that way is not beneficial to anyone and can be dangerous  and unhealthy. When you start to feel the stress building up, find a way to let it out in a safe and appropriate environment. You can do this by journaling, drawing, dancing, or even shouting it out. Talking to your bestie, your sibling, or even a therapist are all great options too. Keeping negative or stressful feelings locked inside can have both physical and emotional consequences, so don’t be afraid to let it out. 

Sometimes life is too much. Especially when it comes to things like school. It can be hectic, insanely busy, stressful and even lonely sometimes. Though it can be these things it can also be fun, enjoyable and full of amazing memories as well. The key to making sure that school is a more positive experience is ensuring that you take care of yourself. Being selfish when it comes to the status of your mental health is not a bad thing because you are taking care of YOU. These are the things that have helped me get my stress under control and I think they can help you too. 


Sarah January selfie

sarah January

Sarah is a California girl who has an obsession with all things historical in or travel related. She holds a Human Performance and Sport, a B.S in Athletic Training as well as a minor in History. In addition to her love of history and culture, she has a passion for health and fitness and is also a hardcore bibliophile with an ever growing book collection. Since finishing her Master’s Degree in 2015, she has become a teacher who is growing her career as a writer. When she isn’t teaching or honing her writing skills, you can find her with her nose in a new book, binge watching Supernatural, or planning her next getaway to the beach. If you want to talk about writing, books, history, travel, Disney movies, puppies...or anything in between, feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and IG.