Destressify because that’s a word

By Sophia Urusova

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There may be a “mid” in “midterms,” but that doesn’t mean exams cease once the middle of the semester passed. Tests and due dates continue to accumulate until they’re like a 20-car pileup on the highway. The successful student must persevere through the workload. Here are 10 fresh options for reducing anxiety in 10 minutes flat.

Just Breathe

One quick way to relax has been tattooed on the wrists of the likes of Drew Barrymore and Miley Cyrus: “Breathe.” But breathing incorrectly can also lead to hyperventilation, and that’s not the way to go. Instead, try one of these two methods practiced in yoga. If you’re bouncing off the walls and can’t sit still long enough to write a paragraph, try 1:2 breathing. Inhale for one count, exhale for two. If you’ve been feeling sluggish and bedraggled, the ratio is even easier to keep track of. A minute of 1:1 breathing, with the inhale as long as the exhale, can invigorate even the most discombobulated student.


For those confined to a sitting position for endless hours, the time for ergonomic exercises is at hand. Begin by staring at a blank wall instead of at a book or computer screen, then look at objects at various distances away from you to help your eyes refocus. Then move your way down your body, gently turning your neck and rolling your shoulders and stretching the rest of yourself, down to your toes, and do a couple dozen jumping jacks to get your blood moving. It’s stressful for your mind to make demands from a body that won’t cooperate. Once you’ve had this interlude of physical activity, work should go along at an easier pace.

Make It Social

This one is simple. Coordinate study breaks with a friend and make an appointment to do some commiseration. Then, vent about everything imaginable, but allow each person only five minutes to dominate the conversation with rapid-fire complaints, so that nobody feels left out. Get all your problems off your chest. In order to manage your time properly, set a timer.

Switch Your Environment

Perhaps you could use a change of scenery. Why not switch locations? Moving yourself and your most important study stuff to a quieter, or just plain different setting can get your mind out of a rut. While you get some movement into your day by walking down the street or up the stairs, your brain gets to rest its studying section for a few minutes, and when you reach your destination, the same subjects will seem less monotonous. Consider your desired atmosphere and give this tip a try.


That’s right, sleep! Or at least lie down – a power nap can work miracles on your mind. The key here is to make sure you get up afterward, so set a couple of alarms or have a friend (or better, an enemy) throttle you awake when time is up. Of course, a healthier idea would be to get those 7.5 hours of sleep in the first place. Reading a textbook all night and being unconscious during an exam may or may not work out better than spending a shorter time looking over some notes, then sleeping enough to be alert the next day.

Homeopathic Method

The frazzled Minuteman or Minutewoman might also be able to benefit from the use of herbs — the legal kind. Instead of more caffeine, try the “Sweet Dreams” tea available in the cafeteria, or one of the special calming teas sold by bag or box at the People’s Market in the Student Union. If you don’t enjoy the steaming luxury of hot beverages, nutrition expert Earl Mindell recommends a supplement of St. John’s wort, valerian, or passionflower for greater emotional balance. These should be available over the counter at most drug stores.

Think Positive

Feeling low? Rabbi Lewis, Mitch Albom’s mentor in his biography “Have a Little Faith,” was asked for the secret of happiness and replied thus: “Be satisfied.” Albom asked him, “That’s it?” and Lewis said, “Be grateful.” It really can be that simple. On a scrap of paper or a new Microsoft Word document, make a list of the things you are grateful for. Then, take a moment to actively acknowledge how thankful you are for their presence. Even if you don’t make a physical list, taking a break to think optimistically will give your spirits a lift.

Light It Up

Humans are not photosynthetic, but they do thrive on light. Being in a well-lit room or near a window in the daytime will get you awake and functional. And not only that, but by exposing yourself to more light, you’ll be fighting the possibility of suffering from the depressive condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (and also, accurately, known as SAD). Flip a switch or open a blind to keep a room from feeling like a dungeon, and choose to spend a little extra time in the sunlight every time you are traveling around town or campus.

The Sound Of Music

Combine self-help and academic motivation in one fell swoop by bribing yourself with music. Try to match the style of the music to the mood you’d like to attain, such as calm and ambient or upbeat and driving. Some students enjoy studying with the music playing constantly, but even for those who are well-practiced in this habit, a change to listening to music at intervals may increase concentration, and provide a motivating factor.

Why So Serious?

Enough with the seriousness! Find something to laugh at, someone to laugh with or both. Joke books, comic books or a funny website may cause you to chuckle, and they reduce stress, too. Besides being relaxing and a very light form of exercise, laughter can refresh your thinking. By its nature, humor is the ability of a phrase or observation to provide a new or surprising view of a situation. Inwardly making jokes about the material you are studying can make it more memorable and enjoyable to read. Pure funniness makes for a great 10 minutes of study break. Try or the online comic strips XKCD comics for a quick humor fix.

That should be enough material to keep you sane for the remaining few weeks of the semester. Now what are you doing reading the newspaper? Get back to work!

Sophia Urusova can be reached at [email protected]