15 Tips for Self-Care & Stress Management

Self-care and focusing on mental health throughout the journey of high school are vital. Remember, caring about yourself and taking time off is not selfish, rather it can often be necessary. Whether you decrease stress and anxiety through music or exercise, there are different habits you can implement in your day-to-day life to prevent long-term issues like burnout.

Stress is present in every aspect of our lives. However, the college admissions process and high school, in general, can increase the amount of stress we feel. Sometimes, it can be nearly impossible to relax and figure out healthy coping habits! Remember, always find what works best for you and reach out to others if your stress becomes unmanageable.

Here are a few ways to manage stress and take care of yourself!

1. Volunteer and Give Back

Although this might seem like an odd way to practice self-care, it can often be therapeutic to volunteer in different places in your own community. Whether it is in person or virtual, it can give someone satisfaction to give and devote their time to causes about which they feel passionate. This can be a great way to spend time being productive without forcing yourself to do work. There are countless ways to get involved that can combine your talents and interests. If you like music, for instance, you can teach music to young kids. The possibilities are endless!

2. Meet with Friends

Most people might spend time with their friends occasionally, but there are numerous benefits to hanging out with friends! Whether you and your friends choose to watch movies, listen to music, talk, or study, the possibilities are endless. There shouldn't be any pressure to do anything in particular, but building a support system with people who understand you is a positive feeling and great for long-term positive reinforcement.

3. Set Time Aside for You

Every day, set aside at least 20 to 30 minutes to do nothing but what makes you happy. This is time to listen to music, walk, journal, meditate, or anything that relaxes you! Be sure not to scroll through social media, the news, or complete any outstanding tasks here. Eventually, this time will become a built-in part of your schedule. Try your best to avoid sacrificing this time.

4. Show Gratitude

Show what you're grateful for! It can be to yourself, your family and friends, teachers, or other people in your life that are important to you. Although showing gratitude might not be the "go-to" method of self-care, science shows that giving back and thinking about what you are thankful for is great for your well-being.

5. Meditate

Meditation is an important addition to everyone's schedules. Meditation is used to calm down and relax and understand how you're feeling. Much of meditation focuses on peacefulness and awareness of your emotions, so it can help identify what is giving you trouble. There are nearly unlimited ways to practice meditation and many tutorials online, so go ahead and learn more about this practice.

6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Concentrate on your toes and try to relax every muscle in your toes. Then, move onto your feet. Then, try to relax the muscles in your ankles, calves, thighs, and move upward to your face. Take your time and really concentrate!

7. Practice Yoga

Yoga is a practice that has gained momentum in recent years for a good reason. Though it can seem difficult to start, there are countless resources online that have beginner tutorials for yoga. Yoga increases strength, flexibility, relaxation, mood and stress management, and more.

8. Turn Off Technology

It's nearly impossible to turn off phones, computers, and other types of devices. While it is important to complete work and your obligations that use technology, it is equally as important to learn how to step back. Look at your screen time on your devices, and analyze which apps take the most time out of your day. Download apps that restrict your screen time for apps that you feel are not good for your mental health. Constantly being on social media can be draining, so work on reducing the amount of time you use those apps. Spend time doing the things you love away from technology for a few hours every week!

9. Use a Creative Outlet

Creating anything is always incredible. Everything is unique and represents different ideas to different people. Writing your feelings down is a great start. This is one of the easier ways to express yourself, but the possibilities are endless. Some write poetry or songs to express their emotions and thoughts. However, writing is not the only way to use a creative outlet! Music, all types of art, and even photography are also types of creative mediums. There is no obligation to share any of it, so be sure to truly create things that make you happy!

10. Work Out

Exercise is proven to have numerous benefits, from an increase in brain function to improved physical health. Running is not the only type of exercise, so find something that you actually enjoy. This can entail playing a sport, walking, dance, or anything that gets you active with your heart pumping. The CDC recommends everyone get 1 hour of physical exercise every day, so be sure not to neglect your health.

11. Get Sleep

This seems like a given, but many students sacrifice sleep for studying or fulfilling various responsibilities. Set a dedicated time to wake up and go to sleep for the week, but the weekdays are a good place to start. A teenager needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day, so be sure to schedule that. Going to sleep at 10 pm and waking up at 6 am allows for 8 hours of sleep with some wiggle room. There is no such thing as "catching up" on sleep, so take your health very seriously.

12. Spend Time Outside

Even if this means you bring a history textbook to read outside, the fresh air and sunlight are imperative for your physical and mental health. Ideally, you can go hiking on a trail in your town and simply enjoy your surroundings. Take walks frequently, visit gardens, ride your bike along different paths and places whenever you can. It can be very relaxing to simply sit outside and be present in nature. Every season has something to offer!

13. Identify Your Stressors

If you are aware of what causes stress and/or anxiety, it's easier to decrease and possibly eliminate those stressors. A great way to visualize stress is to write down everything that is causing stress. You can order it in any way possible, but seeing the visual stress is important. Then, you can generate ideas to get rid of that stress. Remember, you should never be afraid to do what is best for you. Work to eliminate those stressors if possible.

14. Drink Water and Enjoy a Snack

Dehydration can cause a multitude of negative impacts, so be sure to hydrate and grab a healthy snack that decreases fatigue and improves overall wellbeing.

15. Change Your Self-Talk

Self-deprecation is something very common, especially with the constant comparisons that often accompany college admissions. By saying positive things about yourself, you are able to improve your self-esteem and confidence levels. That is the first step to feeling better about yourself in the long run. Even if it seems impossible, there are countless qualities that every person has that are worth celebrating. Be kind to yourself and remember that your worth is not based on the negative words you tell yourself.

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