Relieving Stress: Doing More for Yourself

06/07/2013 02:59 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

It was 2:00 a.m., and I was spending my whole night cramming for a big test the next day. They'd fooled me when they portrayed college as a giant party; it's more like an endless tunnel of stress. Then if I make it out, there's that stress of finding a job or joining the jobless. But let's not forget the stress of having to pay off the thousands of dollars in student loans or the bills and rent I would then have to pay on my own. So will it really be a "Happy Graduation" for me when I do?

For the past three years, my life has revolved around four things: making good grades, working, building my resume, and making job connections. It's a love/hate relationship. By that I mean I hate all the stress and pressure I'm under, but I absolutely love the thought of all my hard work paying off.

So back to my sob story. It's safe to say, without exaggeration, I didn't do so well on the test I spent all night studying for. My brain was so fried that where my eyes were reading "Which statement is an example of...," my brain only comprehended "Wycki setbenrnt eb in asdfgh jk..."

But my day didn't stop there.

The rest of my classes gave me even more to do, and between school and work, there wasn't much time to stop and shit your pants over the total. Which is why coming home wasn't as relaxing as it should've been. My planner revealed over sixty pages to read, six more videos to edit, and a 10-page research paper due by this was Thursday.

I reached for a new pair of pants.

Unfortunately college tuition won't let me afford any kind of stress rehab. Yes, they actually offer that. But I did do some web research and experimentation of my own in hopes of finding the best way to relieve all my stress and make coming home a lot less frightening. I'm no expert, but everyone on the Internet is, right?

First, I decided to set aside at LEAST an hour a day to do whatever I wanted as long as it wasn't written down in my planner. It allowed me to try new things, gave me more time to go out with friends, play golf, do yoga, or even just sit outside and enjoy the day. It helped to steer my attention away from what needed to be done and towards myself and what makes me happy.

Next, the dark circles under my eyes had to go. So I put myself on a schedule to get a full eight hours of sleep each night. I can't say enough how much actually having sleep makes it easier to get through the long days. It especially helped get work done without having to pull all-nighters.

Then I realized I put way too much pressure on myself to be perfect. It was time to not make such a big deal about being the perfect student, or having that perfect resume to get that future job I so desired. I learned to accept the slip-ups and occasional bad grades on a test, or not being the best candidate to intern for that "perfect" news station in Boston. Making peace with myself over this was well worth feeling the weight being lifted off my shoulders.

Finally and most important, I tried not to let the little things I wanted cause me to forget about the things I already had. I stopped caring about having the latest iPhone, and more about what I could do to better my relationship with family and friends. Spending that extra time talking on the phone with my dad or hanging with girlfriends really makes all the difference.

Now I still pull an occasional all-nighter before tests and do find myself worrying about the little things, but there's nothing proven to be more stress relieving than focusing on me and what truly makes me happy.