The first time my skin broke out into pimples was in college. Juggling classes and
extracurriculars, my mind was always running and thinking of what to do next. My skin reacted
the way it did as a response to the constant stress I was in. Surprisingly, as a Psychology major I
should have been taking care of myself more consistently but I was too caught up in everything
but myself. Since I am not a fan of stress breakouts, these are some coping skills I have acquired
to help alleviate my stress; in honor of Stress Awareness Month.
Set aside time for yourself.
In my first year of college, I stayed on campus for most of my first and second quarters.
You would think that I would go out and explore the city of Chicago but I did not set time aside
for myself. I was constantly doing homework and helping others in extracurricular activities and
it gave me no time to be alone. Now, once a week, I try to go out and treat myself to some new
experiences. I’ll go to a fancy French coffee shop in Downtown or simply to a park that I have
not gone to near campus. I use this time and just listen to my curated playlists and let my mind
wander. It’s important to center yourself and schedule time to do so in order to give your mind a
rest from stressors.
Find a safe space.
My school campus has a small duck pond at the entrance with a bridge and a bench. The
trees cover the walkway of the pond and so it’s a perfect place to sit. In my first year, whenever I
felt overwhelmed and did not want to go to my dorm that I shared with my roommate, I would
go here. The duck pond offered me a safe space to just sit and calm myself down from stress. I
found a place that would provide me with comfort and in doing so, alleviate my stress.
5 4 3 2 1 grounding.
I know, I know, this grounding skill has circulated as a coping skill for a while but… it
works! I started implementing this whenever I felt like I had too much on my plate and not
enough time; a familiar feeling to anyone in college. Name five things you can see, four things
you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
By describing the environment around you, it can help bring you to the present moment and
relax the anxieties you may be experiencing. I do this whenever I am anxious about hearing back
from an internship because I’ve gotten anxious of being rejected. It helps.
Light a candle or make an aromatherapy bag.
Every time my friends enter my dorm, they compliment how nice it smells. I always point
at the aromatherapy bags that contain salt, eucalyptus leaves, and lavender, that hang above my
bed. Aromatherapy has been said to alleviate stress through the release of anxiety sedatives that
interact with the brain and nervous system. Since my dorm does not allow candles to be lit, I
make these scent bags but candles work the same!
Eat a comfort meal.
Being more than 1,000 miles away from home and my Mother’s cooking, I find myself
being homesick when I’m stressed. To combat this stress, I try to cook and or order food that
brings me that warm sensation of home. I’ll order Salvadoran pupusas or spicy miso ramen from
my local ramen shop. It’s important to take care of our bodies and that means feeding it,
especially when we are overwhelmed!
In retrospect, these are some of the coping mechanisms that have worked for me during
my time at college. The number one rule however is to put yourself first. Make time for and
center yourself because everyone needs a break and deserves self-care. Happy Stress Awareness
About the Author:
Natalia Serrano-Chavez is a Neolth Student Ambassador from Los Angeles, California currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in both Psychology and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago. She writes for UChicago's Psychology club and has been published in MemoryHouse Magazine as well. Natalia hopes to become a bilingual therapist and serve underrepresented communities in talk therapy, specifically Dialectical Behavorial Therapy and also write creative non-fiction on her life experiences. In her free time, she likes to explore Chicago and collect postcards as well as host picnics when it gets warms.