Five tips to quickly reduce stress as an academic
As academics, we are no strangers to hard situations and the stress that comes with them. As analytical thinkers, we tend to think things through repeatedly. Therefore, our stress is often cognitive. This blog deals with situations that may throw you off your feet for a while. It also discusses five tips to quickly reduce stress as an academic.
When stress strikes
In our lives, unexpected things happen all the time. Whether it is through the fault of our own or a situation which you have little control over. Sometimes you won’t see it coming and it is a sudden change. Other times stress builds up gradually. This blog focuses on the former. If you feel the strength to tackle whatever you are going through, please read on! Remember, when things feel too heavy to solve on your own, you should seek professional help.
My recent personal stress story
So, this happened just when we got on the boat to a small island about two hours ferry ride from Athens. My partner got a call from Melbourne that her dad was not doing well at all. Consequently, we had to fly back to Australia at our earliest convenience. Getting a call about a terminally ill family member is one of the last things you want to hear when you have been holidaying in Europe for a few weeks. But we quickly decided to look for plane tickets and just about three days later we flew back to Melbourne. Thus, our one-week Greece trip turned into a six-week Greece-Melbourne-Greece venture.
So, here are five tips to quickly reduce stress as an academic
As international academics and expats, things do get overwhelming from time to time. One cool idea to remember is that no matter the circumstance, you get to choose how you react. So, without further ado, here are some ways in which you can react to stress. I personally take these steps when things get harder.
1. First: breathe.
Whatever has just happened or whatever you found out is happening – just breathe. In times of turmoil, there is always one (science-backed) thing you can go back to: your breath. Take a couple of long deep breaths. Five seconds in, five seconds out. For the first few days in Melbourne, I couldn’t believe I was back. I woke up with anxiety and that required more than a couple of rounds of this breathing to find some ease and to reduce those panic sweats.
2. Follow a yoga class
Yoga supports thinking with more clarity when things happen. This helps you control your response to a harsh situation. It also helps with processing whatever happens along the way. Whether you are doing a one-off yoga class or you have a steady practice… Keep on going with it. Even short and irregular classes can have benefits on stress levels. Regular practice will also help with building a routine.
Of course, here at Yogademics, we do advocate Yoga. There’s a reason why. It combines exercise with mindfulness aspects. Why that is important? Scientific reviews show yoga has a very positive effect on how you react and lowers feelings of overwhelm.
3. Prioritize whatever it is you are doing.
In times of stress, make a list of all the things you must do and categorize them according to the Eisenhower Matrix (or the urgent-important matrix). Decide which tasks are important and urgent. If they are both, do them right away. If they are important but not urgent, table them on a to-do list. Even something as ‘simple’ as a to-do list can strongly aid clarity in hard situations.
4. Talk with a friend who can mirror you.
One important way I deal with stuff is to talk to a friend and ask if your feelings and your reactions make sense. This reality check will help you see things more clearly. In Melbourne, I sent long voice messages to one of my best friends. I know that he will tell me if I’m doing things OK… or if I’m screwing up big time. Just getting things off your chest helps to reduce stress greatly.
5. Take me-time.
Last but not least…take time for YOU. Even though you might have a big social (or family) circle around you, it is still important that you take time to process things your way. How do we do that? Some simple examples of how “me-time” are yoga, meditation, or journaling. A strategy I find particularly effective is to practice “quiet time”. To do this, put all your electronic devices away, don’t check social media, and don’t talk to anyone for X amount of time. This often works well before bed. Think about what quality time with yourself means for you. Maybe it’s taking yourself out to dinner or pampering yourself.