We are all a little stressed out, so why not learn how to get some relief?

Midterm season is upon us. Expectations are ramping up, papers are being written, exams are ominously approaching and we are all trying to avoid sinking into the pit of despair that forms from striving for perfect grades.

In light of this reality, many of us may need a few lessons on how to effectively and efficiently manage our stress. So, here are a few simple tips to live effortlessly in this season!

1. Eat Stress Taming Foods

We all know about stress eating, but did you know that eating certain foods can actually lower stress levels? 

“Foods can help tame stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can cut levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that take a toll on the body over time,” wrote WebMD.com.

We all love carbs, and biologically speaking, there are certain carbs that support the production of serotonin. Such carbs are called complex carbs. These are contained within foods such as pasta, cereal and whole-grain bread.

If preparing a bowl of cereal is too much work for you, consider swinging by Shalom Café and grabbing a cup of black tea. 

“Drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly,” the same report indicated. “One study compared people who drank 4 cups of tea daily for 6 weeks with people who drank another beverage. The tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations.”

2. Exercise

A second tip to reduce stress is to get some exercise. I personally look forward to going out for a jog on the roads or trails. Not only is it a good way to step away from homework, but it induces what is commonly referred to as a “runner’s high.” 

“A runner’s high is a brief, deeply relaxing state of euphoria … Often, people who experience a runner’s high also report feeling less anxiety and pain immediately after their run,” wrote Healthline.

Though this sensation is temporary, there are lasting benefits to performing any sort of exercise on a consistent basis. For some of us, exercising may look like hiking along the foothills, or for others, playing a game of pickup basketball on APU’s east campus. 

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins,” says HelpGuide.org.

3. Breathe Deeply

Many of us who wear Apple Watches may get annoyed by the occasional breathing prompt that appears at random times; but next time you receive that notification, you might want to actually engage with the activity. 

The Health Center at the University of Michigan recommends employing a technique known as “4-7-8 breathing.” To try this out, all you need to do is breathe in, then exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to eight. Next, quietly inhale through your nose for four seconds. Now, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale. To adequately provide relaxation, it is recommended that you perform this small breathing exercise in sets of four, twice a day.

4. Engage in “Retail Therapy”

Now, “retail therapy” is not spending the entirety of your inheritance on useless knick-knacks from Amazon. Instead, it looks like spending a reasonable portion of your paycheck on things that you enjoy. 

For instance, if you’re an avid reader like myself, then consider visiting the local Barnes and Noble just a few miles from campus. Grab a book or two, and maybe pick up a cup of coffee while you’re there. By doing so, you are not only getting to enjoy a calming shopping experience, but you are exercising control over your finances and spare time, thus increasing personal satisfaction.

“Research has shown that making shopping decisions can help reinforce a sense of personal control over our environment,” wrote Cleveland Clinic. “A 2014 study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that retail therapy not only makes people happier immediately, but it can also fight lingering sadness.”

5. Persist in Prayer

In the context of our campus, I would be absolutely remiss if I did not advocate for prayer.

It is incredibly easy to go about our day and forget to spend time with our Father. We are all too easily distracted by menial tasks and fleshly, peripheral desires. This is why cultivating a time to spend with God is so vitally essential. 

Now, this does not need to look like spending three hours in a closet in absolute silence. On the contrary, Nick Aufenkamp of DesiringGod.org, offers a simple way to engage in prayer in the midst of our busy lives, and I have adapted it to make it even simpler. All we need to do is follow the example of the Lord’s prayer. 

We begin by thanking God. This expression of gratitude can be for electricity, running water, life, family and much more—it’s the simple things that we often neglect to be thankful for. 

Next, we offer petitions, or requests of the Lord. “Permit me to help someone in need today,” or, “May I honor you in my work,” are simple supplications that we can ask of the Lord.

Finally, we end our time of prayer with the word, “Amen.” This small word denotes a whole lot. It is a statement of affirmation that the Lord has heard us and will indeed answer our call to him. “Amen,” is confident, firm and true, even when we may be wavering. 

Whether you engage in just one or all of these tips, I hope you are able to manage the stress of midterms and live with ease.