Stress Management for Students

Current MPA Student Clay Fleming on a coffee break/hike with pals from his cohort.

Hello again everyone! We are one month away from the end of the semester, which is always a busy and stressful time in the MPA program. The second-year students have submitted their final Portfolios and are preparing for their Oral Examinations while also applying for jobs. The first-year students are finalizing the research papers they have been working on all year while submitting group projects they have been managing throughout the semester.

All of these requirements can be overwhelming and stressful. For this reason, I decided to ask my peers about their stress management habits to see how they are prioritizing their wellbeing. Below are their responses:

I’ve found having a morning routine helpful in managing stress. I like to take a few minutes in the morning (without my phone) to think, set intentions, and just exist before jumping into the chaos of the day. When I wake up on time I also like to start the day with a quick yoga practice. If I have extra time I will scroll through social media. Then, I make a cup of tea to enjoy during the beginning of work or class.
-Valencia Wagner, (2nd year)

I like to take long walks next to the Potomac River and C&O Canal! On days I can’t get out for a walk, I at least try to sit on the porch with some coffee or kombucha and enjoy the sunshine for a bit. Being outside always helps with my stress levels. That and napping!
-Mira Singhal (2nd year)

Working out, playing basketball, reading, trying to get outside as much as possible.
-Sam Ingalls (1st year)

One of the biggest ways I have managed stress is to make running a daily habit. Carolina North Forest is a wonderful space in Chapel Hill with fabulous trails, which I have made great use of. Running has helped me be intentional about a stepping away from my computer, sticking to schedule, and taking a much-needed break. I also find when I run I am hydrating more, eating healthier, and sleeping better- all aspects that I can neglect when I don’t properly manage my stress. Even if running isn’t your thing, getting outside and moving your body for just 30 minutes a day can make a big impact. Do it- I know you can!
-Laura Robinson (2nd year)

I’ve found that doing things that allow me to tap into my creativity has been really helpful in managing stress — especially things where I’m working with my hands and can be away from screens. I’ve been making polymer clay earrings, and it’s been a really wonderful way to unplug and do something just for myself.
-Kathryn Paquet (2nd year)

Taking a lot of walks, listening to true crime and comedy podcasts, and trying new recipes.
-Maggie Bailey (3rd year, dual-degree student)

New fun podcasts, different shows, trying new recipes, changing up my music tastes!
-Hallee Haygood (3rd year, dual-degree student)

My stress management mainly revolves around taking my dog for long walks and taking her to the dog park. For me, it just makes me stop thinking about my stress and bringing my attention to the present. Other than that, I am a believer in Netflixing. When I am stressed, I like to watch shows that will make me laugh and are not too serious or intense. Just lighthearted content. When I am extremely stressed I combine Netflix with intense cleaning and organizing (even if it is 11 at night).

When I get stressed out I will do whatever assignment is stressing me out! Putting it off just makes me more stressed.
-Chrisy Hayden (1st year)

Morning meditation and yoga; Weekend hikes in Pisgah National Forest
-Macie Rouse (1st year)

I prioritize social and personal time doing things I enjoy, giving me a brief escape and mental reset. If I’m having a really bad day and have a lot of work but am really stressed, I’ll take two hours to go on a walk and facetime a friend, because nothing productive comes from an anxiety ridden mind.

Definitely through exercise and what I like to refer to as “depression baking” which is what I do when I feel like things are too out of my control and I need to narrow my focus
-Mallory Verez (1st year)

Working out and yoga!
-Ansley Birchmore (1st year)

Identifying stress management strategies and activities is a crucial step to prioritizing wellbeing during overwhelming situations. I am very proud of my peers for knowing how they can best manage stress so they can regain their focus. It appears that some form of exercise and enjoying the outdoors is a common thread amongst my cohorts. My practice is very much the same.

Going on bike rides and long walks with my partner has helped me disconnect from my phone, email, and schoolwork to give me some time to be present. I also enjoy calling a friend and catching up on life so I can maintain some of my social needs. Additionally, sometimes I just need one lazy day where I binge watch a tv show, have a movie marathon, or play board games all day to really give myself some time away from what is causing the undue stress.

I hope everyone who reads this is considering ways to manage stress. Hopefully, you already have some strategies that you currently practice when you are in troubling times. If not, I hope this blog provided some motivation and ideas for various ways to prioritize your wellbeing.