College students across the nation have been anxiously following the news closely this week in anticipation of finding out who the next President of the United States will be. In addition to obsessively refreshing the Associated Press election map and watching live election coverage, students have had to juggle school work for these last weeks of class leading into finals. The mounting pressure of quickly approaching deadlines and finals alone is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed and burned out.

It’s crucial for students to stay physically and emotionally well during this time to ensure a strong finish to this already difficult school year.

For students feeling swamped, there are many activities that can help provide students with the brain break or relaxation they need in order to succeed.


1. Exercise

We hear it all the time: exercise is one of the most important keys to improving physical and mental health. Physical activity is proven to reduce anxiety, depression and negative mood. Something as small as a quick walk around the block or a stroll to your favorite coffee shop can help get yourself out of the house and get moving.


2. Breathwork

According to Healthline, mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, signaling your body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. Deep breathing allows the body to calm down and slows the body’s heart rate. The goal of these breathing exercises is to focus on your breath, making it slower and deeper in order to relax.

Find a breathing exercise that works for you here.


3. Call a friend or family member

Calling a loved one is a great way to destress and combat feelings of loneliness. In the time of COVID-19, it’s not always possible to do things together in person, but making a phone call is the next best thing. Not only can making a call help make you feel a little better, but it can do the same thing for the person on the other end of the line.


4. Light a candle

Using essential oils or lighting a candle is a simple way to destress. A calming, soothing smell is sure to help you unwind and feel more relaxed. The best scents to use for relaxation are lavender, vanilla, valerian, jasmine, or any scent that you love. These calming scents are said to enhance relaxation and help provide more restful sleep.


5. Listen to your favorite album

Listening to music can have a relaxing effect on the body. Faster music may make you feel more alert, while upbeat music may help you feel more optimistic. Listening to different types of music can lead to varying effects on the mind and body, but listening to anything you enjoy is sure to put your mind at ease.


6. Break up everyday monotony

Changing up your daily routine in small ways can invigorate you in other parts of your life that have been repetitive. Things to switch up your routine outside of work, like swapping your usual Zoom outfit for something more self-expressive or experimenting with a new hairstyle, can give you a sense of freshness in your routine.


7. Take a nap

Taking a nap during the day can help you to recharge or make up for a night where you had an unfulfilling sleep. Different nap lengths help restore different aspects of alertness, productivity, and other aspects.

Here is an infographic to help you determine how to take the best nap possible.


8. Find a weekly show to keep up with

TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off on Netflix with a weekly episode release schedule are great opportunities to take a break from studies or the constant news cycle. Episodes are long enough to give you a feeling of having a true break while the weekly release schedule prevents you from falling into the blackhole of “just one more episode!” Check out Annenberg Media’s list of shows to keep you entertained during quarantine.

In an email sent out to the university on Oct. 30, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles Zukowski said that USC will be hosting a number of virtual events in the upcoming weeks to combat feelings of burnout and stress while remaining engaged in the community.

“We know this has been a very intense few months with emotions running high, coupled with a pandemic that is keeping us from gathering together in person with classmates and colleagues. Our priority throughout this election season has been to help our community feel informed and engaged,” Zukowski said in the email.

USC’s Counseling and Mental Health Services offer workshops focusing on managing stress. New Election Stress Workshops focused on election related stress are taking place mid-October to mid-November, Mondays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m.

Students are encouraged to reach out to USC counseling and mental health services if they need additional support.