Guide on wellbeing: recovering from stress 

What things affect recovery and how to foster and practice recovery.

The importance of restoring one’s energy levels after working hard is well known to most, but whether or not we act in accordance with this knowledge in our daily lives is a different thing. An obstacle that often shows up on the road to high quality rest is the feeling of guilt of not being engaged in working on unfinished tasks or important study assignments. Fortunately, it’s possible to learn to allow your mind and body to rest without guilt so that you can experience that high-quality recovery time without things getting in the way. It’s good to note that this requires practice – especially if setting aside time for recovery is something new for you. 

Constant effort makes you sick 

Studying and making art are very intensive activities in many ways. Many students experience intense pressure to perform more than their body and mind can handle. Both external and internal pressures easily create an environment where it is difficult to relax on a regular basis with a good conscience. Because of these circumstances, many people push through their own feelings and make taking care of their own needs their last priority. 

Often, it’s also challenging for art students to distinguish between study/working time and free time. Many students work alongside their studies, either during the summers or during the academic year. Incorporating necessary rest into everyday life can seem very challenging, especially when money is scarce and there are household chores to take care of, as well. 

In the long run, however, if whatever you do doesn’t include breaks, free time and high-quality recovery, you will start to get strained, exhausted and sooner or later, ill. This includes studying or doing art. 

Insufficient rest and free time will also over time begin to be reflected in your ability to think and act creatively. The result of this situation is often that your ability to function slowly begins to worsen and this, in turn, may also lead you to doubt your ability to be an artist at all. Burnout is a serious condition that can lead to lifelong challenges such as difficulties with memory and concentration. If you aren’t fully aware of the potential consequences of a burnout, this lack of awareness can also lead to a difficulty of taking your own boundaries seriously. 

It’s important to remember that if we don’t take care of making sure we get the rest we need by our own initiative, our bodies and minds will eventually force us to rest. It’s important to learn to listen to yourself well in advance. It can be said that recovery is one of the most essential study and career skills for an art student and professional. 

Tips for restoring balance in life 

A common reason people experience burnouts is the experience that there are no alternatives to the current way of doing things. This “experience of being in a tunnel” is real, but it doesn’t mean that the thoughts it produces are true. As the experience of pressure increases, it becomes increasingly important to stop and think of creative solutions for creating some space in your life, for example, together with a loved one or an outside professional. 

It’s good to remember that we do things in the smartest and most efficient way (even in the short term) when we have room to breathe. Then we can make use of the creative parts of our brains, not just our “panic mode”.  

To get out of the tunnel, try the following tips: 

  • Take breaks and make time for recovery. To support the sustainability of your work, try taking breaks in what you do. You can try the pomodoro technique, for example. However, in addition to taking breaks within activities, it’s vital to set aside time for recovery on a regular basis by marking your recovery / leisure time in your calendar in the same way that you might also mark your study and work sessions. 
  • Try doing things that balance your everyday activities in your free time. To support your wellbeing, it can be useful to do something completely opposite or different to everyday study and work life, and thus balance the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sometimes it is also worth doing nothing in your free time and just practicing relaxing in your own company. You can try relaxation and breathing exercises first to get you started. 
  • Pay attention to your lifestyle. Try increasing the amount of physical activity in your life. Exercise is a very important resource in recovery, as exercise where you build up a sweat burns stress hormones in the body. Alternatively, for others, exercise should rather be a calming activity that lowers the heart in order for recovery to begin. Sleep, good relationships, diet, and avoiding substance use are also very important for recovery. However, focusing on physical means of recovery alone is often not enough. It’s also important to reflect on one’s own attitude towards recovery and work so that they are sustainable and supportive of a healthy and happy lifestyle. 
  • Practice working with a relaxed but effective attitude. It’s important to realise that working efficiently doesn’t always require internal stress and pressure. You can get as much or, in fact, much more done and achieve more high-quality results by breathing consciously and listening to your needs and feelings throughout the day. If you find it difficult to work with a relaxed attitude, pay attention to what kinds of thoughts prevent you from working in a relaxed way. Write down these thoughts and explore them with constructive curiosity. 
  • Practice relaxing without guilt. Many people find relaxing their minds in their free time challenging. If you find that your mind is tense in your spare time, take a moment and plan when you will return to the things that are weighing on your mind. When deciding this, it’s important to check in with yourself about what would be sustainable. This way, you’re actively prioritising a smart and strategic approach to work and a good quality of life. Then, when your thoughts of work or studying show up again in your free time, you can, in good conscience, ask them to come back at the time you previously decided. 

If you find that the above measures don’t help and you feel exhausted, it’s important to take a closer look at your situation and how you do things so that you get a new perspective on a more sustainable way to study, work and live. So don’t leave yourself alone in this situation, instead remember that you’re warmly welcome to seek support from, for example, the Finnish Student Health Services (FSHS) or the study psychologist. 

Learn more: