6 Ways to Calm Down When You're Stressed from Studying

By Megan Weyrauch on September 9, 2013

This article is brought to you by Kaplan, the leader in test preparation for over 90 standardized tests including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT. To learn more about Kaplan’s Test Prep offerings, click here.

Photo by Walt Stoneburner on flickr.com

It’s 3 a.m. and you’re still studying. Sweaty fingers turn the pages of your textbook as your heart tries to bust out of its chest-jail. In a daze, you scan the same dull paragraph four times before you realize that you aren’t actually reading the text. Your head is pounding and you cannot concentrate as you count down the final hours, minutes and then seconds until you need to be relaying your knowledge on paper.

You’re stressed, buddy.

Stress is “a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way.” When you sense danger, your body goes into “fight-or-flight” reaction mode in order to protect you. This is great for emergency situations, like slamming on your breaks to avoid an accident, but it is not so wonderful for studying. The symptoms of stress are numerous; below is a graph from helpguide.org highlighting many of the symptoms and warning signs of stress.

Stress occurs naturally in college students, who are overwhelmed balancing multiple classes with work schedules and extra activities. Studying proves another monster conducive to stress, and some students choose to turn to unhealthy ways of coping: alcohol, drugs, overeating. However, there exist many healthier (and cheaper) ways to beat stress.

Instead of reaching for a bottle of beer to relax, relieve your tensions from studying in some of the following ways.

1. Engage in a physical activity.

One of the greatest ways to relieve stress is through physical activity. Whether this is through a vigorous workout or by participating in sports, you will find that getting your body moving helps you to literally sweat off tension.

Wittenberg University student Ben Fox has been involved in athletics from a young age, and has used this physical activity as an outlet for stress in his college years.

“It really relieves a lot of stress from a lot of things if you can do some physical activity,” said Fox. “You’re sweating everything out and you feel like you’re getting cleansed of your stress.”

Adding a daily physical activity into your schedule can help you to beat stress before it comes on. However, there are ways to get rid of stress as you are studying, too.

Fox, who is an education major, mentioned that he keeps a jump rope hung up near his door for quick bouts of physical activity.

“When something is stressing me out, I pick up that jump rope and just jump rope like a fiend, and I’ll feel much better about the stress,” he said.

Amanda Oravec, senior biochemistry and biology major of The Ohio State University, also likes to relieve some studying stress with physical activity.

“I run and I dance. A lot. It kind of takes me to my own world,” she said.

Relieve some stress with either a few minutes or hours of physical activity to get your blood pumping, and then go back to hitting the books.

Photo by pernillarydmark on flickr.com

2. Get out of the house.

Leave the place where you are studying in order to re-energize. Take your dog for a walk or go alone and spend time in nature for a little while to relax your mind. Spend some time thinking about something other than your study materials.

“Talk it out with friends or just watch a movie,” said Oravec. “Stress studying is never good, so think about something else for a while to get your mind off of things; it makes things so much better.”

Meet a friend for a quick cup of coffee (or for one of these six healthier options) to chat for half an hour about something other than your big exam or paper that is due, or go see a movie together. Get up and get out for a bit, but remember to come back; you have a test, after all.

3. Write.

Writing when you are stressed out can help you figure out the things that are bothering you. While it may seem obvious that the act of studying itself is stressful, take a few minutes to write down a list of what aspects of your situation are causing you the most grief. Are you trying to study a lot of material in a small amount of time? Is there certain material that you don’t understand? Did you procrastinate? Once you figure out why you are stressed you can better address how to alleviate your woes.

You could also take some time away from studying and do some creative writing. Jot down a quick poem or short story to get your creative juices flowing; even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer” this will at least give you a much-needed break from studying.

Photo by TempusVolat on flickr.com

4. Do something you enjoy.

Hobbies can help you relax. Put aside the books and take a few minutes or up to an hour to put your stress towards an activity you enjoy. Oravec does just this with baking.

“I normally take a time out and do something completely different from the subject I’m studying, and, once I feel better, I get back to studying,” she said. “I’m a stress baker. When I bring cookies and cupcakes to my friends, they know I’m stressed.”

Like Oravec, Fox uses one of his hobbies, playing sports, to get his mind away from studying.

“When I’m in the moment playing the sport, all that matters is that sport,” he said. “For those 45 minutes of my day I’m relieved of stress.”

Get physical, watch half an hour of your favorite television show or YouTube channel or just listen to a few of your favorite songs; breaking up your study sessions with activities or hobbies you enjoy will help relieve some test tension and studying monotony.

Photo by jbelluch on flickr.com

5. Relax your mind and muscles.

Do some yoga or Tai Chi. Give yourself a massage (or get a nice friend to give you one). Take a hot bubble bath. Imagine yourself elsewhere for ten minutes.

Fox uses a technique called “escapism” to weed out stress.

“I close my eyes, and I just imagine myself on a wonderful beach, and I’m surrounded by fun people, we’re doing the limbo, just enjoying the sun,” he described. “I’m enjoying that mental image for ten minutes and then I come back to my studies and I feel relieved and can start my studies again.”

Here are some links to muscle relaxation and meditative techniques that can help you to calm down.

6. Just breathe.

Take a deep breath in and hold it for five seconds. Now let it out. Tell yourself that everything will work out in the end. Take a second to focus on the present and just chill out.

“Sometimes all people need to do to calm down is breath. It really does help,” said Oravec. “Take time out to relax and put things into perspective; chances are it’s over a test or something that in the big picture of things is not going to change your life.”

If deep breaths don’t help, you can check out some of these breathing exercises to help you get through your stress.

Stress is rough, but using any of these methods will help you to relax and to endure intense study sessions. If you have your own healthy methods for coping with stress, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Are you getting stressed because of your next big test? Kaplan can help, click here to find out about their test prep packages!

Hello! I am currently serving as the Director of News/Managing Editor for Uloop News. I recruit writers, edit many articles, manage interns, and lead our National Team. When I'm not writing or editing, I love to take part in community theater, read, and enjoy the outdoors with my husband Kevin. I have a Bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing from Ohio State University and an M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University. If you ever have questions or just want to chat, email me at megan@uloop.com.

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