7 Ways to Help Deal with Stress

By Laraib Mehdi

We live such a fast paced life. Everyone’s always busy, and to be able to find time to do anything light hearted keeps becoming increasingly difficult. I always end up taking on more than I can handle. This usually ends up resulting in an almost breakdown before I finally just throw everything out of the way and realize I need space to breath.

Everyone’s been there, especially during school. University students especially are just massive balls of stress and those that aren’t – I envy you. When the school year starts after a long summer, we’re all excited at first but as soon as the first wave of midterms and assignments hit, there just seem to be no hours left in the day to get everything done and stress kicks in hard.

Stress, isn’t always a bad thing. It is what gets you moving and pushes you to do what you need to get done. This is what ensures you get that good mark or meet that deadline your boss set. The issue is that most of us don’t know how to handle it. Our healthy ways (if we have any) go out the door when everything starts piling up: Work out? who has time for that!? Eating right? No fruits in the house, lets just eat chips! Worse even, some of us pick up habits we shouldn’t, such as smoking, to try and deal with stress.

So how do you deal with it? How do you ensure that stress doesn’t consume your life and become the cause of an eventual burnout? Different things work for different people but I’ll list some that have worked for me in the past and continue to do so now when I have class, research, volunteering, a 5 hour exam to study for, an event to plan and of course familial/religious commitments.

1. Stay Organized
Organization is key. When you know what it is you have to do and in what time period it is much more likely that it will get done. I have a white board up in my room. It’s large, has all the important dates and my weekly schedule. Calendars work too (Day planners I don’t like as much since I usually end up forgetting about them). Anything that is in a place where you get to see it every morning works! This way you know what you have to do that day, and what is coming up.

2. Don’t Procrastinate
Some people work better under pressure. They need that push to get going, however leaving everything you have to do to the night before is a terrible idea and doesn’t work if you have more than one thing to do.  Give yourself a leeway, start a few days before so it’s close enough that you feel the push but far enough that if you don’t end up finishing it’s okay

3. Take Breaks
You are not a machine. Most people will work better if they aren’t working continuously for hours. Where I work, most of us sit there and turn graphs into numerical data, it’s long and tedious but it has to be done. After approximately three hours of work, someone usually gets up and asks if others could go for a coffee break and that is all the incentive we need. Even if someone doesn’t drink coffee, they go with the others just to get some fresh air. It’s necessary to be able to get through the rest of the day  and when we get back we’re usually working better too.

4. Find Days to Relax
Take a day which is yours. Just yours, no work, no school just do what you want to do. Go to a lake; go fishing, whatever you like to do. This will help you rejuvenate. It certainly helps me. Once every two weeks maybe, I’ll paint and that is all I will do. It’s therapeutic to not have to think about anything else for a little bit. The work will still be there when you come back, yes, but you will have a fresher, clearer mind to be able to get through it.

5. “Meditation”
Do a simple search on the web for stress release, and you find that this is mentioned a lot. However, as Muslims, we already should be doing something similar at least three times everyday, with our five prayers. Pray and when you pray try to forget everything else for those ten or so minutes and just focus on the words and the fact that this is when you’re talking to Allah (SWT) directly. Focusing your thoughts on one thing for that period of time will divert your mind from the things causing you stress. It helps reduce the stress hormones that have accumulated and therefore, recuperate you [1]

6. Learn to Say No.
This is my issue. I can never just put my foot down and be like “No, I can’t, I have too much to do already.” I am always taking on things people ask me to take on when I already have a lot to do. It doesn’t help with the stress levels at all. Many people can do this so easily because they know their limits and know that they can’t do more. I hope one day I can learn to be one of those people.  This since I have yet to try, has obviously not ‘worked for me’ but I bet it probably will if when I can grow a backbone and juts say no.

7.  Stay Healthy

I hate working out, when I am working out. It hurts, I’m out of breath and sometimes if I make too sudden movements, I get light headed. But 20 minutes after, I feel so energized that I can not wait for the next day so I can do it again. Exercise is a great stress reliever for me. Even if I am swamped I’ll make sure to take an hour (or less on days when I really can’t spare an hour) out of my day to get some physical activity. This along with eating foods that will give you a good amount of energy should help you get through your day with maximum turnover, when it comes to work to do.

Everyone is different, and different things will work for different people. Try to find what works for you and stick to it. Organization is one that will work for almost everybody. Good luck with everything, and remember to stay stress free to get more done.

1. Wein Harrison, Stress and Disease: New Perspectives, 2000.