Sooner or later in your academic and/or professional career, there will be situations when your stress will overload you and your wellbeing and performance will suffer. How to deal with stress to keep sane, healthy, and at top performance?
There are countless resources and tips on stress management, some more useful than others. It is a complex psychological, physical, and health topic that I do not pretend to be an expert on. But I will share some tips that (may) have worked for me.
1. Avoid stressful situations
I know, I must have worked hard to come up with this one…
On a more serious note, I have learned over the years what stresses me out, and I try to avoid those situations. When I cannot avoid them (e.g. receiving 10th round of comments on my presentation at work), I consciously accept beforehand that the upcoming situation/conversation will be stressful, I calm down before, and then am better prepared to go through it. The realization that being stressed will not change the situation (only make it worse) can actually help persuade my rational self not to bother with stressing out.
Regular cardio (3x 30mins per week as a minimum) helps release the stress hormones. For me, it is running at an above-than-comfortable speed (which leaves less mental capacity for thinking/worrying about my to-do list) that helps clean my mind. Other than helping alleviate your stress level, cardio obviously has plenty of other health benefits too.
3. Meditation / Yoga
I am an ultra rational person, and was resisting for a long time the notion that sitting calm and observing my breath, or trying a downward dog and reciting ‘ohm’ could make a difference in how I feel. And I am still not sure whether it works, and if so, which aspect of it specifically – but since I started practicing meditation/ yoga more regularly, I do feel better.
For meditation, I have used Headspace and Calm, two apps that will guide you through the process step by step. It doesn’t take more than 10minutes a day to calm and clear your mind.
For yoga, I go to a local studio. In addition to psychological benefits, yoga also helps with posture, flexibility, and strengthening your core – more than enough reasons to give it a try, even if you are skeptical about the power of ohm.