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Stress happens: develop strategies that will bring relief

A guide from Healthy U

April 8, 2024 — 

Stress can pop up in our lives at any point; sometimes it’s when we expect it, like exam season, and sometimes we do not see it coming, like a worldwide pandemic that flips our lives upside down. Regardless of the situation, it can be very challenging to handle stress without the proper tools! It’s important to develop strategies to combat these feelings so that we’re well-equipped when they present themselves. Below are some strategies to help guide your stressful thoughts.

What are you grateful for?

When our minds start to wander to the worst-case scenarios, it can feel impossible to regain control. Try listing a few things that you are grateful for to help reign in that wandering mind!

  • I am grateful for the delicious dinner I had last night
  • I am grateful for my mom, who loves me
  • I am grateful for the weather today

Read this article from the Gottman Institute to learn more about Rituals of Gratitude.

Work out your senses

Give your brain a bit of a workout by exercising your awareness of your senses. Practicing mindfulness can help to reduce stress and even help you focus.

  • Seeing: Pick an object in your environment and try to notice something interesting about it that you might not have before
  • Feeling: Bring awareness to every part of your body that is making contact with a surface
  • Hearing: Find a noise, like the hum of your computer or the cars outside, and listen to the way it fluctuates
  • Smelling: Try to identify a smell around you, like dinner being made or even just the regular smell of the room

Learn more about Using your Senses to Relieve Anxiety with this artcle from Anxiety Canada.

Remind yourself of how great you are!

In stressful moments, it is easy to feel like your self-esteem has taken a beating. When stress is something that we deal with often, like in a university setting, it’s crucial to develop strategies to maintain a high level of self-worth. Try writing down some affirmations in your phone or on a post-it note on your mirror so that they’re fresh in your mind when stress creeps in. These are most effective when they are realistic so feel free to tweak the examples below to fit your life!

  • I am still strong even though I am having a hard moment
  • I have taken exams that I have done well on before, and I will do well on this one
  • Just because I am feeling anxious about this presentation does not mean I am unprepared

Learn about Self-Compassion which is related to affirmations.

Prepare and practice

The best way to use these tools to combat stress is in combination with preparation and practice. Just like when giving a presentation, it’s always best to come prepared with notes; print out this post or jot down a few of your favourite strategies in your phone so that you are prepared with your tools when stressful moments arise. These strategies are great to use in the moment, but will achieve the most success when exercised so that they’re tailored to your current situation.

Learn more


Healthy U is a UM student group made up of a team of friendly volunteers who are trained student health educators. Managed by UM’s Health and Wellness office, Healthy U provides students with validated health information through blog posts, peer office hours, health packages and outreach events. 

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