Life
Reduce Stress With Mindful Relaxation
By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It’s no news to Wake Forest students that college campuses are extremely stressful environments.

According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment, 30 percent of students reported that stress had negatively affected their academic performance within the past year, and over 85 percent had felt overwhelmed within the past year. This kind of prolonged stress can negatively affect both physical and psychological health.

Students who experience high stress levels are more likely to have difficulties getting adequate rest, but sleeping for seven to 10 hours consistently is actually one of the most effective ways to decrease stress levels.

It is estimated that 60 percent of college students get insufficient sleep, according to the University of Alabama Department of Health Science, and research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows that poor sleep habits are a “strong predictor of academic problems.” Students’ stressful schedules may be negatively impacting their college life in more ways than they realize.

If it seems impossible to get enough sleep while balancing full class loads, extracurriculars and jobs or internships, there are other simple ways to reduce stress.

Building a mindful, distraction-free, meditative pause into your daily routine is one key way to do so, and with temperatures just beginning to fall, now’s the perfect time to start taking a tea break.

Select a time that will allow you to pause for 10 to 20 minutes routinely each and every day. During this time, put away all technology. Engage only with your thoughts and what you see around you, or, if you prefer, try reading a magazine or newspaper each day. Don’t think about any of your plans following your relaxation time. Staying present is the best way to maximize the stress-relieving effect of your pause.

Make a designated space for yourself to associate with relaxation. Living on a college campus may seem limiting in this regard, but space can even be created in your dorm room. Start your pause by making your bed, and prop up your pillows to form a personal nook. Or, if you don’t use Campus Grounds as a study spot, try designating its cozy chairs as a relaxation space instead.

If you’re a morning person, building a mindful pause into your wake up routine will refresh the start of your day. Choose an alarm that’s gentle and soothing, and drink a full glass of water before anything else to replenish and rehydrate.

After the water, however, try drinking a cup of tea during your break.

While simply sitting to enjoy a hot beverage is relaxing, sipping tea provides additional health benefits.

Theanine, an amino acid found in tea, is known to promote mental and physical relaxation, improve mood and reduce anxiety without causing drowsiness by positively affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, creating a relaxed, happy feeling.

A “Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology” study found that when college students were given tea to drink while completing difficult math problems, the amino acid boosts the brain’s levels of alpha waves, reducing stress and improving mental focus. Add caffeine, and you’ll find yourself an a state of refreshed, calm alertness.

Additionally, daily cups of tea can help you to better respond to stresses of everyday life and reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the blood.

When selecting a tea, it’s most important to choose a variety based on personal taste. All tea actually comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, and whether the tea becomes white, green, oolong or black depends only on how the leaves are processed and oxidized. As water evaporates from tea leaves, more oxygen is absorbed, and the tea is stronger and more flavorful.

Ingredients like lavender, chamomile, peppermint and dried fruits are actually herbal infusions that simply may be aded to teas to lend certain benefits, colors or flavor profiles. These, for example, augment the calming effect of tea.

The health benefits of tea do not differ much depending on the oxidation and harvesting process, so the best choice is simply the one you’ll most enjoy drinking.

Black tea has the highest caffeine content, so it’s a perfect breakfast tea. Green tea has medium caffeine and is smooth and refreshing, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. The presence of the amino acid theanine also prevents caffeine jitters, so tea is a great alternative to coffee.

Although there’s no easy solution, building time for a meditative pause into your schedule each day may make a difference.