The college application season can be a very stressful time, from strenuous deadlines to waiting for decisions. This is why it is extremely important to have a few stress-reducing activities in your back pocket to keep your mental and physical health in check.

By: Katelyn Pramberger, Political Science and Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University, 2023


Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body when you are stressed. Why? Putting physical stress on your body has actually proven to eliminate mental stress. Biologically, exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones and releases endorphins, which are chemicals that improve mood and act as natural painkillers. Exercise also improves sleep quality and increases confidence which improves mental well-being. Exercise works best when done regularly.


Examples of easy and stress-relieving exercise: walking, dancing, yoga, and running. A plus is doing exercise outside. Getting some fresh air each day is quintessential for improving mood!



Another great way to reduce stress is to write it down. This may seem a little off-putting at first, but getting all of your stressful thoughts out in the open can be very cathartic. There are two approaches to journaling that I generally follow: writing down a stream of consciousness each morning about any inhibiting thoughts/feelings/emotions you are experiencing and writing down what you are grateful for and any goals you have for the day. Gratitude is a great way to relieve stress and focus on the good in the day.


Examples of using both methods: make three sections each morning. In the first section, spend 1 minute writing down any and all thoughts and feelings. In the second section, write down 10 things you are grateful for in your life in the form of “I am…” In the third section, write down any goals you have for the day and write these in the present tense as if you have already done them. These three sections will help you release any negative emotions you are experiencing, focus on the positive, and focus on your goals and applications without any added stress and anxiety. I always say that starting off your day right is the key to a successful and stress-free life!


Practice mindfulness

Practicing daily mindfulness is a great way to ground you to the present moment. Mindfulness such as meditation and yoga, can reduce anxiety, negative thinking, and increase mental clarity. Mindfulness has also proven to increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and reduce depression


Examples of mindfulness: meditating for 10 minutes each morning or doing 10 minutes of yoga each day.


Breathing techniques

Stress can lead to faster heartbeat, quicker breathing, and constricted blood vessels. Deep breathing exercises help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system to slow breathing and relax you. The goal of breathing is similar to practicing mindfulness: focus on your awareness of your breath and reduce stress.


Examples of breathing techniques: breathing the same count in and out, the 4-6-8 method (in for 4, hold for 6, and out for 8), and sectional breathing (breathing in your diaphragm, then abdominal, then belly, and then chest, and repeat X3)


Listen to music

Another great way to reduce stress is to listen to music. Music has a very relaxing effect on the body, especially when we procrastinate. Slow-paced music can help increase relaxation, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and reduce stress hormones. Nature sounds can be very calming which is why they are very often incorporated into mindfulness practices.


Examples of music to listen to: classical, indie folk, jazz instrumental, and nature sounds


I hope you find some time in your day to practice some of these stress relieving activities! Good luck with applications!


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