It’s no secret that life can get stressful.

While stress can be useful in short bursts, it can wear us down over time. Prolonged stress can cause an alarming amount of psychological and health issues, including anxiety, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues, just to name a few.

While eliminating stress from your life isn’t always easy, there are things you can do to ease the negative effects that it can cause. Here are five tips for handling stress before it becomes a detriment to your life.

Get it out.

If you were to think back on all the times you were stressed in your life (if that’s even possible), you’d probably realize that a lot of the problems that seemed insurmountable at the time weren’t really that bad in the end.

Getting those feelings out in an organized, logical way can really help to figure out the root of the problem. You could talk it out with a friend, family member, or even your pet. My cat has heard her fair share of drama, I assure you. If you prefer to process things more internally, journaling is the way to go. You don’t even have to use a fancy journal and a nice pen (but if that’s your thing, go for it). You can grab a scrap sheet of paper or even a sticky note. The most important thing here is to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Go for a walk.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: people seem to think that exercise is the answer to all of life’s problems. But if you’re anything like me, fitting gym time into your daily schedule isn’t always very practical (or very appealing, if we’re being honest). Going for a short walk gets you out of your head and gets your blood flowing. Not only is walking a great form of light exercise, but it can also be extremely relaxing. Pop in some earbuds and listen to some upbeat music (or a good podcast), and you might find that your short walk will become longer and longer.

Snuggle with a furry friend.

It’s pretty surprising how much better you can feel after giving your cat or dog a big hug after a long, stressful day — no matter how much they pretend to hate it. There’s just something magical about our animal friends that lowers our blood pressure, releases serotonin (the happy chemical) in our brains, and makes us feel so much better. Give it a try, and you’ll see what I mean!

Find a mindless hobby.

This might sound a little unusual but stick with me. When you’re stressed out, all that nervous energy has to go somewhere, and sometimes it can come out in unhealthy or counterproductive ways, such as over-eating or nail-biting. I find that a good way to avoid this is to funnel all that energy into something a little more productive and stress-relieving.

Find a hobby that’s relatively mindless because that’s usually the most soothing for your mind. Try something like coloring, gardening, knitting, or playing a relaxing game on your phone. As you engage in these activities, your mind will be freer and much more capable of processing whatever’s bothering you.

Students hanging out in UMHB's Quad

Rest often.

I know, this one can be a bit unrealistic for most of us, especially if you’re in school or have a job — or both! But it’s important nonetheless. Without enough sleep, our brains just can’t comprehend or cope with our day-to-day problems. But sleeping isn’t all that you need in order to combat stress. Taking some time out of the day to rest and recuperate is also a very important key to feeling refreshed.

Find a spot in your house or apartment that’s just for you, whether it’s a whole room or just a cozy corner. Fill it with items that make you happy and go there to be alone and unwind when you’re feeling overstimulated. Trust me, even five minutes alone in the quiet can work wonders.

These five methods of handling stress have really helped me, and I hope they help you, too!

Life beyond the classroom is full and rich at UMHB. Check out our Student Life department to discover ways to de-stress and to make your time in college the experience of a lifetime!