12 Mindful Ways to Manage Your Stress

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IES Abroad
April 16, 2019
Molly Caldwell Christchurch

Stress is a part of human life that we all have to find ways to manage. This means experiencing stress around study abroad is totally normal, and you don’t have to face it alone! 


Over the years, our students have found countless ways to keep pre-departure jitters at bay, conquer nerves around adjusting to a new culture, and confidently return home after an overseas adventure. Whether you’re just starting to consider study abroad or you’ve booked a ticket for the trip of the lifetime, these tips can help you prepare for when the stressful moments arise. Let’s dive in: 

  1.  Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. You've heard it before—mindfulness is key to both preventing stress and calming it in the heat of the moment. With this exercise, try inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, then exhaling for eight seconds. Repeat. Calming your heartbeat can actually calm your mind. 
  2. Enjoy nature! There’s beauty to be found wherever you’re calling home during your study abroad journey. Take a step back from what's stressing you and allow yourself to be where your feet are. Moving your body and breathing some fresh air can work wonders, hear it first hand from Maple Buescher in her blog, “I Learned to Run in Madrid: Reflections on Endings”.  
  3. Unplug, literally or metaphorically. What do you do when your laptop or phone gets glitchy? You power it down, give it a minute, and let it reboot. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try the same trick with yourself: unplug, recover, and reboot. This might mean snoozing your phone notifications for a while to give yourself a break from that stimulus, or maybe it’s more about no social events and a nice quiet night in. Like most de-stressing tips, this one is personal, so reflect on what makes you "glitch" that you can unplug from. 
  4. Stand in a power pose. Never heard of it? The theory is that by standing in a power pose (think Wonder Woman with her hands on her hips and her chin and chest held high), you can induce that positive “I’ve got this” energy you need in stressful times. Pro tip: a power pose can be done almost anywhere, try a power pose in those moments full of last-minute nerves, like before a big day at school, social events or as silly as it sounds at the airport before a flight! 
  5. Check out a soothing app. There are tons of apps out there designed to help you manage stress, but a few that colleagues in our office have had success with and recommend are Headspace, Calm, and Dare, among others. While not all of these apps are free, some offer free trial periods that you can take advantage of. 
  6. Watch bloopers of your favorite TV show. Isn't it weird how bloopers from TV shows are sometimes funnier than the actual show? Good thing, because we all know how much of a cure-all laughter can be. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, all you need is an Internet connection to hop on YouTube and mine for comic medicine. 
  7. Say "no".  FOMO is real, but so is JOMO, the joy in missing out. It's important to carve out time for indulging in the activities you love—whether that's watching T.V., reading a book, doing calligraphy, or anything in between—and a key to finding such time is learning to say "no" to the things that cause you to stress. Learning to say "no" will give you the space to say "yes" to other, more personally important and enriching activities that bring you joy. 
  8. Keep a stress journal. Whenever you feel stressed, try writing a couple sentences about how you're feeling and why you might be feeling that way. This will help you lock in on any underlying patterns, and the journal will eventually grow into a log of all the times you've made it through stressful periods for you to reference as those events reoccur. 
  9. Develop a mantra or goal for your time abroad. Sometimes taking space to regain perspective is refreshing, prior to your journey you likely had an idea of what your time abroad would entail: academic and professional opportunities, personal growth, or even living like a local in your host city. Referring back to the big picture can keep you grounded during difficult moments. Consider creating a tangible reminder of these goals: vision board, digital notes in your phone or try out Alia McLaughlin’s suggestion of mantras. Check out her insights in "Mantras & More: The Overlooked Piece in Preparing for Travel"
  10. Clean your space. It's a weird phenomenon, but cleaning your space of clutter really does spark joy. If you're feeling stressed, take a look around where you spend most of your time and ask if it's as tidy and neat as it should be. If dishes are piled up in the sink and the floor is concealed under a layer of dirty laundry, put on some tunes and scrub the place down. A clean and organized environment can make for a clean and organized mind. 
  11.  Make a to-do list. Sometimes stress is just a symptom of pure overload, and a quick way to manage that is to itemize what's on your plate by making a to-do list. Take a seat, grab a pen and notepad, and list out all the things you need to accomplish that day, including even the smallest tasks. Shining a spotlight on your responsibilities like this will give you some direction as you start checking them off. Pro tip: start with the easiest thing first to build momentum (and to more quickly enjoy the soaring thrill of crossing something off).  
  12. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. There are people in your life who care about you and want you to succeed, and all it takes to tap into that is a text, video call, email etc. Also, community can be found around you, Chloe Abracosa shares about finding a Filipino market while in Amsterdam to have a taste of home, read more about her self-care tips in "Abroad Fatigue"

These are just a few methods to manage your stress, but hopefully with these tricks up your sleeve, you feel better equipped for the adventures ahead. Wanderlust is just a click away, discover more about the application process, study abroad programs and internships here

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