Take care of yourself
Financial worries create considerable emotional stress, and often include physical symptoms such as headaches, body tension and even nausea. To help counteract these physical effects of stress, it’s important to take care of yourself as best as you can, even on a tight budget.
Eat healthily: Try to eat as healthily as you can, by spending your money on healthier foods. For example, swop white bread for brown bread, and chocolates for fruit or yoghurt. Try to get a balance of carbs, veggies, protein and fats. If you don’t have access to sufficient food, take a look at the resources section in this article for information on accessing the Wits FoodBank.
Get rest: Make sure that you get enough sleep and down time. This can be hard when under stress, but it’s important to do your best. Try to do something relaxing before bedtime, and read up on Sleep Hygiene.
Exercise is a great way to balance out the effects of stress, and you can do it for free. Take a walk or run around campus, do some stair climbing or participate in a free campus ParkRun (you can also just walk) on a Saturday morning.
Connect with others
Connecting with people who are important to you can help to reduce your stress levels. Make time to connect with people you care about, preferably face-to-face if you can. Instant Messaging is an option, too, and can be more cost-effective if you are worried about finances. You can also meet people through volunteering (such as for an organisation like the WCCO) or joining organisations that don’t charge a fee.
Focus on what’s important in your life
When you’re stressed about money, your whole world can seem to close in on you. Remember to focus on what’s important to you, such as connecting with friends or family, or the career that you are aiming for at the end of your studies. Remember that even if you have to stop studying now as a result of financial pressures, it is possible to pick up your studies later on, or to work and study via correspondence.
Time in nature
Even something as simple as taking a walk in a green space can have positive mental health benefits. Wits has more nature on campus than you might think. Try a visit to the pond on West campus to help clear your head.
Choose a natural object to watch for a minute or two. This could be a plant, flower, insect or even the moon or clouds. Just notice the object you have chosen, and really look at it for as long as you are able to concentrate. Look at this object as if you are seeing it for the first time, and allow yourself to really engage with the object and its purpose in the natural world. For more mindfulness suggestions, take a look at this site.
Take a few minutes to try this grounding exercise to feel more connected and grounded in the present moment.
- 5 things you can see – Name 5 things that you can see around you e.g. I can see my laptop, a tree outside the window, a pen, a shoe and my phone
- 4 things you can touch – Name and describe 4 things that you can touch. I can feel the warmth of my socks against my feet; the smooth, hard roughness of a wall; the sharp coldness of a key etc.
- 3 things you can hear – Name 3 things that you can hear, close by and in the distance. I can hear a clock ticking, the traffic in the distance, people talking outside
- 2 things you can smell – Name 2 things that you can smell. You may need to move around to find something to sniff e.g. food or a plant. If that’s not possible, just think of two of your favourite smells if you don’t notice a particular smell.
Breathe in and out slowly
This should allow you to feel in the present, more grounded and in your body. Notice how your breath gets deeper and calmer.
Deep breathing exercise, with extended exhalation: 3-2-4 Breathing technique
- Rest your tongue lightly along the ridge of tissue located behind your front, upper teeth; or to rest gently on your lower jaw. Allow it to rest here throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely before you start a new cycle of breath.
- Close your mouth, inhale quietly through your nose as you count to three. Let your stomach and chest fill up with breath.
- Pause. Hold your breath for a count of two.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound, as you count to four. Let your stomach and chest release.
- Steps 3-5 make one full breath cycle. Repeat four more times for five total rounds. Try practising these steps twice daily or when needed to break out of a cycle of anxiety.