One of the Buddha's four noble truths is that life is suffering. This is adapted and more mildly stated in our lives as “Life is stressful.” Whether you design to say "stressful" or "suffering," the truth remains that as you grow, your responsibilities grow along with you. Not to say you won't have times or seasons of peace, but inevitably that will be disturbed by some change. College is one of these changes. Whether you live at home and commute, in-state, out-of-state, or are studying in a different country, you will face new challenges and a change in environment. Perhaps it's a welcome change, but challenges will come along regardless. While you cannot control the ebb and flow of the stresses of life, you can learn how to manage them. It's necessary to do so.
This article will focus primarily on stress relief by stepping away from your responsibilities, even if only for a short time. Responsibilities, whether academic, athletic, social, religious, familial, etc., will accumulate. If you don't find a way to unwind, you will begin to unravel. This is true beyond college, so getting as early a start as possible will only benefit you in the short and long run.
My biggest recommendation as an admitted homebody is to leave your residence physically. If you're like me, you love alone time and are perfectly content to leave your home only for classes and sports. When you finally leave home and start living alone, the first few weeks or months might feel like absolute freedom to live the indoor cat lifestyle: eat, lounge, and sleep. This can also be a huge temptation when you're a student-athlete and you feel too exhausted after practice and classes to want to do anything but lay in your bed and play video games. It's comforting at first, but after a while, this lifestyle can begin to feel stale, mainly when stress accumulates. What once was a comforting hobbit hole begins to feel like a prison. A change of scenery can work wonders in these scenarios.
If you don't have a car or much time to get off campus, there are plenty of ways to get out and change things up. There are a plethora of student-led organizations on campus that have varying degrees of physicality. Find one that suits your interests. If you enjoy the outdoors, join an outdoor club. For non-student-athletes, intramural sports are a great way to stay active in a social environment. If you're religious, most campuses will have student-led orgs that meet weekly. Some organizations may even offer retreat opportunities, a great way to bond and change things up.
Another way to get out is to get into a regular exercise routine; my recommendation will always be to go for a run. Going outside, getting sunlight, and staying active are great ways to break the monotony of classes and the stresses of life. As a benefit, it also increases your brain function, which can only help your academic performance. If you're a student-athlete, you likely get enough exercise. I would still recommend going for a short walk outside of your practice hours. Fresh air is never a bad thing and walks provide time for meditation, listening to music, or maybe a phone call. Explore and find cool spots.
If you have a car or access to public transportation, learn about the city you're living in. It's not home, but there are cool spots. Even if you're tight on cash, which most students are, there are plenty of low-budget amenities that the town you live in can offer. If there are parks nearby, that's a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of your campus or city. Find a nice place to walk, hammock, or meditate and leave the stresses of your life on campus for even an hour.
A personal favorite is café hopping. Especially on a Sunday morning, I love going to a café and getting a decaf latté and a doughnut. Cafés are great spots to quietly enjoy books, a change of scenery for work, or a great place to catch up with friends. As a plus, most will offer free Wi-Fi along with their good vibes. For any readers that are 21+, responsibly enjoying a drink at a rooftop bar with some friends or by yourself can make for a lovely evening.
If you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, buy tickets to a concert or a game for a local sports team. Whether a major league sport or minor league, it's a great way to get out, grow an affinity for your new home, and leave your stress at home for a couple of hours.
While I recommend getting out of your room, there is also a time and place for nights inside. Whether you have big exams to prepare for, a big game or race on deck, or are simply swamped, sometimes a night to relax and decompress inside is what you need. It may sound counter-intuitive, but cleaning your living space can be therapeutic. It may seem like procrastination, but turning off your brain to fold the laundry sitting in your basket for a week, organizing your workspace, deep-cleaning your room, washing your bedsheets and making your bed, etc., are low-brain power tasks.
They don't take long, and after you find that your room and workspace are uncluttered, your mind will also feel less cluttered. It may be enough of a break to get back to working efficiently, but if you still need more time, you'll likely enjoy your Netflix, music, or game much more with a clean-living space. Furthermore, if you host any movie night or hangout, your guests will also appreciate a clean area.
Life is stressful. Responsibilities accumulate. There will come a point where you feel overwhelmed, and scrolling Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube won't assuage those stresses. Whether any of these methods resonate with you, I hope you find a way to relieve stress and unwind before you begin to unravel.