Simple ways to stay grounded in a stressful environment

An illustration of a woman reading with her hands cradling her head and a large stack of books sitting next to her.
Hannah Cooper /File

College isn’t easy — especially when you’re a Golden Bear. With trying to balance a challenging course load, maintaining a social life and participating in extracurriculars, when do you have time for yourself? Being stressed is an understatement when it feels like your life is literally crumbling beneath you. I would be lying if I said I didn’t break down into tears every semester — the stress gets to everyone. Stress is going to happen in our lives, but rather than trying to fight it, why not learn how to overcome it? With deadlines and exams coming at you left and right, life can start to become very monotonous, so much so that you may start to lose a sense of yourself. To help combat that feeling, here are some small ways to keep yourself grounded in your everyday life.

Be mindful

At any given moment, there are hundreds of thoughts running through our brains: your never ending to-do list, meetings and deadlines — you name it. But, what would happen if you pressed pause and gave your brain a little break? To be mindful is to be aware of the present moment and most importantly, your thoughts and feelings. By focusing only on your breath, meditation is a great way to cultivate mindfulness. Meditation is different for everyone. Some people like to sit in silence, others like to listen to music or a guided meditation. With just 10 minutes a day, you’ll start to notice small changes in your productivity. And, if you have the time, try meditating for 20 minutes.

Express gratitude

In such a stressful environment, it’s hard to not just focus on the negative things. But by doing so, you miss all the great things that are happening around you. No matter how your day went, there’s always something to be grateful for. Every night before I go to bed, I always write down three things that I’m grateful for. I’ve learned that it’s the little things in life, such as fresh water and a roof over my head, that I’m most grateful for. Having the opportunity to pursue higher education, especially at UC Berkeley, is something that I’m grateful for every day. By training our brains to seek the good things in life, we start to change our mentality and learn to appreciate everything, no matter how big or small. Sure, we’re all grateful for the things in our life, but what would happen if we actively started thinking about it?

Practice kindness

Just because you’re having a bad day, it doesn’t mean you need to take it out on other people. By practicing kindness, you can start a domino effect. It only takes one person to start this chain reaction — and you can be that one person. These don’t need to be grand gestures; just something as simple as holding the door open for the person behind you or paying it forward are great examples of acts of kindness. While you should be kind to others, don’t forget about yourself. You’re only human, so don’t be so hard on yourself. At the end of the day, you’re trying the best you can, and that’s honestly the most anyone could ever ask for.

Spend time with your support network

Whenever I’m stressed out, I tend to shut everything and everyone out. I don’t make time for coffee or lunch with friends because I tell myself that I don’t have time for it. But the truth is, you never have time for anything — you have to make time for it. Surrounding yourself with your support network can help ease the tension in your life and boost your mood. Don’t sacrifice positivity by thinking that you’ll be more efficient because doing so will actually hurt you. Everyone needs a break from their work, so why not spend it with your friends?

You have the power to change how you interpret the world around you. When life gets stressful, don’t let it consume you. Instead, ground yourself with these simple techniques. If you’ve been waiting for a sign to take action — this is it. Is incorporating these tips going to solve all of your problems? No, but it sure as hell is a good start. We all have to start somewhere, and for you, hopefully it’s here.

Allison Fong is the assistant blog editor. Contact Allison Fong at [email protected].