Welcome to Next Gen Natural, a column where we share a Gen Z perspective on natural health and wellness. I’m Michelle—alive’s Editorial Intern and creator of the Healthy Num Num food blog. I love healthy living and want to inspire you to integrate wellness into all parts of your life, regardless of your age.
When I think back to high school, I remember always feeling anxious. I was anxious about my grades, what others thought of me, and what to wear to school (only now am I wishing I had a uniform). I put extreme pressure on myself to do well on assignments and exams, which caused unnecessary stress. I also felt stress about drama with friends and classmates.
School is a major stressor for 45 percent of teens. To deal with stress, many students turn to coffee, social media, or other substance use. Although these responses are often normalized, there are healthier ways students can cope with stress. I still use these strategies in my post-grad life.
Talk to someone you trust
While it’s easy to bottle up emotions and push issues aside, they will usually come up again. Fear of being judged may prevent you from asking for help. However, confiding in someone you trust—whether that’s a friend, sibling, parent, teacher, or counselor—can help clear your mind. Sometimes, I just need someone to listen while I let out everything that is overwhelming me. If you prefer writing, keep a journal as a private way to express your thoughts.
Move your body every day
Breaking a sweat is a great way to break your stress. Physical exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, which are hormones that improve your mood. Incorporate physical exercise into your day by finding activities you enjoy, like team sports or a solo walk, run, or hike. I set a goal of moving every day. Sometimes I go for a long walk, and other days I work out at the gym.
Overcome the gym
For many, going to the gym is intimidating. When I first went to the gym, I remember feeling fear of being judged for what I looked like, not knowing how to use the equipment, and not knowing anyone there. I became comfortable by going with a friend, remembering that everyone is only focusing on themselves, and planning my workout ahead of time. Alternatively, there are many YouTube workout videos you can do at home. Right now, I’m loving Move With Nicole and MadFit on YouTube and Cara Loren on Instagram.
Eat balanced meals
Healthy food = healthy mind and body. Eating a balanced diet can help give you energy to combat stress. For example, foods containing omega-3s, B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium can help your body feel good and reduce your stress response. I make sure all my meals are filled with fiber, fats, and protein, which help fuel and energize. Certain supplements can also help with relieving stress.
Take a deep breath in and out. Simple, right? When I’m stressed, I often disregard deep breathing as a destressing hack because it seems too simple and ineffective; however, it’s an easy and quick way to feel calmer. There are various breathing techniques to help you relieve stress, Headspace is a free guided mediation app. I find the narrator’s voice calming, and Headspace provides follow-along deep-breathing videos.
Be kinder to yourself
Practice positive self-talk to help lower your levels of stress. I’ve realized that the stressor, whether that is an exam or difficult assignment, isn’t going to change. However, my attitude toward it can. Try to replace discouraging thoughts. For example, change, “I can’t do this and I’m going to fail” to “I can do this and will try my best.”
Take a social media break
For many people, including myself, social media can be a distraction from getting work done. This can lead to feelings of stress from procrastinating. Sometimes, I turn my phone off for periods of time to help me focus. Other helpful strategies include putting your phone in a different room, setting a screentime limit, and reminding yourself that procrastinating isn’t going to make things easier.
Connect with a friend
Disconnect by connecting with a friend. Friendships are proven to boost your happiness and reduce your stress. Do activities you both enjoy, whether that’s going to the mall, trying out a new cafe, or watching a show together. If you aren’t able to see a friend in person, FaceTime or call. I aim to connect with a friend at least once a week. Even when I saw my friends every day in class, I liked spending time with them in an environment outside of school.
Find a creative outlet
Cultivating a hobby outside of school or work can help you channel your inner creative. Drawing, playing music, baking, and even watching a Bob Ross painting video can all be calming ways to relieve stress. Even learning a TikTok dance is a fun way to take your mind off school.
Listen to music
When I’m feeling stressed, I like to put headphones in and block out the rest of the world. Studies show that listening to music can help reduce stress and anxiety. I like creating different playlists to suit whatever mood I’m in. For example, I have different playlists for walks, workouts, and my night-time routine.