After going through piles of schoolwork and being locked inside your room for an unhealthy amount of time, hopefully you realize it’s about time for a break. The only problem is that you can’t stop thinking about work. Anxiety and stress about things you should be doing buzz relentlessly through your head. If you have trouble relaxing, here are some things you can do to empty your mind, or at least let it decompress after doing hours of math or struggling through that five page paper.

Take a walk—outside. Not only does fresh air relieve the claustrophobia of being cooped up inside your room or wherever else you holed up for the last seven hours to work, but moving your body after sitting down for a while feels great too. Walk and chat with some of your friends, or walk alone without your headphones and let yourself focus on your environment. Listen for animals nearby. Smile at the people you see and create a shared sense of positive energy. Or just let the drone of cars passing and leaves rustling around fill your head in a soothing background noise. If these options are unavailable because the weather is terribly cold or rainy, you should still leave your room to talk a walk down your dorm or apartment complex hall. Get right near a window if you can and watch the rain, or step out into the cold for just a moment to feel something other than stale air on your face.

Read. I’ve heard from many people that they wish they had more time to read. Well, here’s permission to stop reading for work and start reading for leisure. I heard from other people that they couldn’t stand reading another book after reading so many boring or complex texts for class, which is understandable, though it doesn’t have to be a book that you read. Pick up that food magazine or check out those online articles you’ve been wanting to read. Despite common misconceptions, books are not intrinsically more valuable than magazines, online articles, or other reading materials. And who says your leisure reading needs to be productive? It can be, though that’s not the main goal of leisure reading.

Work out. Working out brings those sweet, sweet feel-good endorphins and several long-term health benefits. Before you think about how you hate running or how you’re not flexible whatsoever, remember that exercise can be what you want it to be. Swimming, dancing, power-walking, weight-lifting, yoga, and just about anything else where you physically exert yourself can be more beneficial than sitting for several hours. You also don’t have to consider yourself athletic to exercise; just do what you’d like at you own pace. If absolutely none of this sounds appealing, or you don’t have the time and resources to work out at all, then at least stand up and stretch every so often. Roll your head slowly around your shoulders to stretch your neck, and move your arms around more. Don’t worry about looking dumb. Your body will thank you.

Meditate. Admittedly, this one can be a little tricky, since it takes some practice to really be beneficial. It might be helpful for you to use one of the many free apps and free videos online that instruct guided meditation, which is especially useful if you’re just starting out. One of meditation’s central goals is practicing mindfulness, which is the practice of accepting everything in the present as it comes in order to develop a sense of awareness and calm. It helps you not only clear your mind but also reflect on the day or why your current mood is the way it is. It may just help you breathe a little easier. Either way, it’s definitely worth trying to improve your mood or relieve anxiety.

Do arts and crafts. Both creative geniuses and terrible artists can enjoy activities like cutting and pasting old magazines, drawing, coloring, paper folding, or bracelet making. All of these activities are cheap or free and learnable via Youtube. Arts and crafts inspire a special kind of blankness in your mind while occupying your hands, which can be relieving for people who like to fidget. Most of these things require just enough concentration to keep your mind off of anything too serious and not enough concentration to distract you from thinking anything at all. Additionally, they can be really good emotional outlines. Don’t let assumptions of things like talent hold you back on this one. Let yourself draw nonsense and make weird looking collages. Who knows, you just might end up with something beautiful.

Give these activities a try before you decide they’re not for you. You might discover a new hobby or give yourself a much-needed break from the stress that’s been building in your chest. Even if you only do these activities for 15 or 20 minutes, they can help you keep yourself sane and healthy.  

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