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DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - June 5, 2009

How to deal - and how not to deal - with stress

by Maria Shen

Whew - thank goodness AP tests are now over. But before high school students can collapse onto their couches and vegetate in front of their laptops, there's one more hurdle coming: finals. It feels like this will never end. Whether you're a freshman still recovering from the disconcerting concept of finals, a junior trying to make that last push for grades before college apps, or a senior trying to keep your C in calculus, there's no question that this is a high stress period.

After scouring the Internet and books for de-stressing techniques, I've come up with some that'll relax even the most high-strung overachiever.

Things to do

1. For seniors only: Just think about how close you are to graduating. Close your eyes, imagine that diploma in your hand, flinging your mortar board into the air, screaming your lungs out. Don't you feel better already?

2. Go for a walk outside, but leave the iPod at home. Completely disconnect for 10 minutes. I find that listening to music only makes me zone out of the present and fuels my obsessive list-making and schedule-making tendencies.

3. Brew some tea. Chamomile is a great de-stressor. Something about the smell is just so calming. Mint tea works as well. Or, even better, make some chamomile and mint tea. Once you feel collected, tackle those European monarchs or geometry proofs again.

4. Sniff some lavender. The smell of lavender is proven to decrease stress levels. Here in Danville, there is lavender aplenty growing about. When you're going on that walk of yours, bend to smell the flowers.

5. Prioritize your tasks. When you have both your chemistry and algebra final in one day, things may seem overwhelming. Instead of thinking of the sheer quantity of work you have, write it down and list them in order of importance. Then, go down the list and do them. The act of writing down your tasks will put things in perspective and help you feel more organized.

6. Drink some water, eat some nuts. Walnuts are great for the brain and will give your energy a boost. Constantly downing energy drinks will eventually lead to that total crash. Water will make you feel more refreshed.

7. Stretch. Really, stretching actually helps. As you stretch, your body will take in more oxygen and you'll feel instantly rejuvenated. If stretching isn't your cup of tea, try putting on some loud music and dancing around. Just getting up and moving will help you shake out that panic-y feeling.

Things NOT to do

1. Call your friends to complain. The more you whine, the more you'll feel overwhelmed. You and your friend are also likely to get off track and end up having hour-long phone conversations.

2. Chat on AIM. No, it's actually not necessary to have your buddy list open. I know you're trying to tell yourself that if you need help with a certain math problem, you can IM someone over AIM and ask them. But, come on, who are you kidding? Keeping those chat boxes open will distract you more than help you.

3. Start making playlists and mixes for the end-of-the-year party. I know this is one thing I'm guilty of. For anyone out there who loves music, there's nothing more fun than spending a couple of hours putting together the perfect playlist.

4. Go on Facebook. No. No no no no. Just ... no. Don't do it!

5. Go on Fmylife.com. Yes, reading about the mishaps of others makes you feel better about the possibility of failing that history final. But those FML posts last for pages and pages. It's the perfect procrastination tool. Resist the urge to read these funny little tidbits!

Armed with the above suggestions, you are ready to tackle the rest of the school year. Hang in there - it's almost over. Now, sharpen your pencils, don your glasses, and get studying.

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at youngbohemians@gmail.com.

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