We live in a world where stress and anxiety are becoming more and more prevalent, whether it be in relationships, work, or school. Stress has become a global epidemic, and studies show that young adults and students are more stressed than ever before. It’s about time we talk about it.

A 2016 Canadian survey published by the Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) shows that 65% of 25 000 university students say they experienced crippling anxiety in the year prior, whereas 46% reported debilitating depression, leaving them unable to properly function in 2015. These staggering results are much higher than previous years, and as a student at one of Canada’s top business schools, I see the stress and anxiety amongst my peers, and in myself daily. My stress stems from a variety of things, whether it be an upcoming test, too many projects on the go, or trying to balance a social life. It’s easy for the stress and anxiety to pile up and become just too much.

With the new school year fast approaching, it’s common to kick off the year on a high, and to ignore the feelings of stress and anxiety until everything comes crumbling down. Here are a few things I do to prevent breakdowns, and de-stress when I’m feeling anxious:

1. Yoga and meditation: We’ve all heard this one before. Doesn’t everyone recommend yoga as a mechanism to de-stress? I tried yoga in elementary school, and back then I really didn’t understand the purpose. This year, I purchased a membership at a local studio, and attended classes 2-3 times a week. After really focusing on the breathing exercises and mindfulness, I’ve noticed a world of a difference in myself. As cliché as it sounds, yoga truly changed my life. The breathing mechanisms are versatile and can be used in any type of high stress or anxious situation, and there’s something about doing yoga in the evenings that allows me to have a restful sleep. Any night where I can grab a full 8 hours without waking up in the middle of the night, is a good night. Can’t hit the studio in the evening? There’s so many incredible apps which provide guided meditation for sleep. If you put all your brain power into focusing on the guidance, I promise you, you’ll fall asleep before it’s over.

2. Reading a good book: It’s impossible to study for hours on end without a break, and I’ve come to learn that it’s okay to take breaks. During exam season last year, I started bringing novels to the library and anytime I caught my mind going to an anxious place, I would crack open my book and read a chapter. It’s a great way for me to de-stress and put my energy into something that requires less brainpower. It also helps fuel my brain and make me more motivated and focused to study after my chapter is over.

3. Listening to music: Upon starting university, I became obsessed with listening to music. Whether I am walking to class, on my way to an event, or on the subway, my earbuds are always in my ears. The beautiful thing about headphones and music is I can choose what I want to listen to depending on my mood. I’ve noticed that music distracts me from the little things that aren’t worth my worry, clearing my mind.

4. Talking to someone you trust and love: This one’s my favourite. Whether it’s taking the time to catch up with a friend, or calling a loved one miles away to vent, there’s nothing that eases the stress faster than the voice and advice of someone I love. I’m lucky. I have so many incredible people in my life who have always been there for me to provide a listening ear when I need it, words of advice when I want them, and a virtual hug when I’m feeling a little down.

5. Know you’re not alone: there’s millions of post-secondary students around the globe going through what you are. We’re all in the same boat, and each of us feels and deals with stress in different ways. As a member of Rotman Commerce Women in Business (RCWIB), I have a community of strong, like-minded women to remind me that even during the tough parts of the school year, supporting one another and being there for each other is important. My RCWIB team emphasizes the importance of a community, while empowering all women and girls to reach their potential.

Armed with these tips, I feel confident leaping into the new school year to be the happiest, most productive, and hopefully less-stressed version of myself. 

This article was written by Hannah Smith. Hannah is a third year student at Rotman Commerce at the University of Toronto. She is specializing in finance and economics and is a member of the Corporate Relations Committee within the Rotman Commerce Women in Business (RCWIB) group.