Stressed-looking woman with hand on forehead works on laptop

5 tips to manage stress

Everyone experiences stressors, and with the combination of final exams, winter break preparation and seasonal obligations, you might find yourself particularly overwhelmed this time of year. 

While different studies suggest stress is necessary to boost motivation, personal growth and development, too much or unrelenting stress without a break may take a toll on the mind and body, which can contribute to anxiety, depression, headaches and high blood pressure, among other symptoms. 

To discover ways to manage stress more effectively, The Daily spoke with Sara Lee, assistant vice president of University Health and Counseling Services at Case Western Reserve University. 

Read on to learn five practices Lee recommends you observe to lower stress levels throughout finals week (and beyond).

1. Set realistic expectations.

Consider what you want to achieve using SMART goals—those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. It is also helpful to check in with yourself daily, acknowledging each milestone accomplished.

2. Optimize productivity and time management.

Organize, track and manage your tasks with a project management tool such as Google Tasks, Asana, or a similar software, properly prioritizing urgent tasks or those that require the most attention. You can also create a schedule or daily planner with established time limits to focus better and avoid over-committing.

3. Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques. 

Reduce short- and long-term stress by participating in one of University Health and Counseling Services’ mindfulness programs. Need a break from studying? You can calm your mind (and body) by listening to a prerecorded guided relaxation or by doing a breathing exercise.

4. Be kind to yourself. 

From treating yourself to a favorite meal and giving your body proper rest to doing an activity you enjoy, take time for self-care. Grant yourself grace, and extend the same kindness to yourself as you would an overwhelmed friend, family member or other loved one.

5. Create a network of support through meaningful connections. 

If stress begins to impact your ability to function, get professional support with one of Case Western Reserve’s provided mental health services, such as Counseling Services for students or IMPACT Solutions for faculty and staff.