Pillbox

How to relax after diving back into school

Keep yourself energetic by working for short bouts whenever you can. Don’t forget to grab your iPod so you can listen to your favorite tunes and a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) Keep yourself energetic by working for short bouts whenever you can. Don’t forget to grab your iPod so you can listen to your favorite tunes and a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) Keep yourself energetic by working for short bouts whenever you can. Don’t forget to grab your iPod so you can listen to your favorite tunes and a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) Keep yourself energetic by working for short bouts whenever you can. Don’t forget to grab your iPod so you can listen to your favorite tunes and a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) There a variety of foods that are easily found on campus that are extremely conducive to leading a stress-free life.  (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) There a variety of foods that are easily found on campus that are extremely conducive to leading a stress-free life. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) Take quick study breaks to snack on healthy items like fruit. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor) Take quick study breaks to snack on healthy items like fruit. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor)

The relaxation that spring break brought is officially over, and we are now in the stressful weeks piled with homework and exams before Carnival arrives with a big bang. But before there is an escape into the world of Booth and Buggy, we need to deal with the reality of the pile of work mounting high on our desks.

If you’re looking for ways to alleviate, if not eliminate, this upcoming stress, here are some quick and easy ways to do so.

Take 10

Relaxation doesn’t mean staying in bed the whole day. That’s just plain lazy. Relaxation is about being calm and stress-free, and this zen state of mind doesn’t need to be restricted to moments of sipping a tropical drink on a sandy beach, but it can be brought into everyday life as well.

Exercise can be pretty relaxing. This statement may sound contradictory, but scientifically speaking, exercise causes the human body to produce hormones called endorphins, which impart a happy feeling, automatically reducing your tension. Of course, even though the nearest gym may be just down a few flights of stairs, who finds the time to go work out for an hour when there’s so much homework to do?

Donna Morosky, the director of fitness and health in the athletics and physical education department, has some answers.

She suggested a simple way of bringing some calm into our everyday lives, and she called it “Take 10.”

“Take time out for yourself each day, just 10 minutes,” she said. “Get up 10 minutes early, plan your day, take a few deep breaths, or do a bout of exercise. You’re going to be much more efficient, much more alert, and much more productive.”

Morosky’s words are pretty easy to follow, as she isn’t expecting a huge time commitment, nor is she asking you to take the extra effort to change into comfortable clothes and sports shoes to do a workout. All she’s asking for is 10 minutes of your time.
Get it together

Much of the stress that plagues our daily lives comes from being unplanned. A midterm you just found out about, a quiz you forgot to study for, a meeting you missed: All of these add unnecessary tension to the day that could have been avoided by just planning ahead. Try making life stress-free by using those extra 10 minutes to go over the tasks for that day. If the stress can be avoided, why endure it?

Take a deep breath

Here at Carnegie Mellon, students are always working on assignments, or if it isn’t an assignment, they’re studying for an exam. Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of being under pressure to come up with a project, put together a presentation, or get a paper in by its deadline. And now that we’re sandwiched between spring break and Spring Carnival, this pressure is at its peak as professors rush to get all the midterms out of the way. It’s times like these that it becomes very easy to succumb to the stressful environment and, in short, lose your mind.

When the stress of the situation starts mounting, it’s best to take one simple step: Just stop. “Walk away from your work,” Morosky recommended. “And take 10 minutes to take 10 deep breaths.”

Put on some calming music, close your eyes, and concentrate on breathing. Another great way to find some balance is to spend 10 minutes with your legs up against the wall. Morosky explained that this position helps reduce the pressure on your heart as the flow of blood to your brain is aided by gravity, and the greater flow of blood to your brain revitalizes you.

Taking meditation classes may also provide some great stress relief. OM, a spiritual organization for Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, offers “Shanti,” weekly yoga and meditation classes. Contact ravimehta@cmu.edu for more details.

Work it out

A great way to ensure a stress-free day is exercise. The athletics and physical education department offers a variety of one-hour classes covering topics ranging from Himalayan yoga and spinning to samba and hip-hop. These classes do not require prior registration and cards to attend them can be purchased at the University Center equipment desk. Try a single class of yoga, spinning, or Pilates with a $7 single class card. All the other classes can be attended once with a $4 card.

But for those who can’t afford to lose an hour, “Take 10” applies here as well. Morosky suggests simple things like just walking up and down the hall, or taking a walk in the evening around campus with a friend; things that will get your blood pumping and get you breaking a sweat.

Chug the H20

“Keep yourself hydrated,” Morosky stressed. “Our brain is 90–95 percent water and we need water more than anything.” The coffee that most of us regularly drink is a diuretic, meaning that it dehydrates the body by extracting all the water and making us use the bathroom more frequently. To overcome this loss of water, it is essential that we replenish our water content by regularly drinking water.

More often than not, the reason people’s brains seem slow and unable to function is because they are severely dehydrated.

Dress your space

The state of one’s mind has a lot to do with the environment it’s in. If the space is cluttered, thoughts are disorganized as well. For this reason, it is important to create an airy and calming atmosphere in the room that is conducive to work. This doesn’t mean hanging up wind chimes and playing classical music, although both of these can be quite effective, but it means creating your kind of calm. If you think blasting rock music is calming, then go for it.

For those who aren’t quite sure what is calming for them, there are a number of things that are worth a shot. Try something as simple as letting the sunlight in, or keep your windows open to get some air circulating in your room. Natural light and air can do wonders for the state of mind. Also try getting a potted plant for your room. Plants emanate a peaceful vibe that can make the room a more relaxing place. They make the air in the room fresher and richer with oxygen. As a part of the 1000plus initiative, an Emerging Leaders team is giving out free plants on April 3 in the Merson Courtyard at 4 p.m. Test out the effectiveness of having plants in your room by getting a plant from them.

No matter which method you try, stick with it. Results are not going to show up overnight. If you can embed these ways of relaxation into your lifestyle, you will soon see yourself becoming a calmer person.