4 Zen Habits You Can Cultivate Now to Stay Serene in High School

Ah, summer: sunny days, breezy nights, a little less work than usual, and... a lot of pressure to get ready for next school year. Whether you're relaxing by the pool or knee-deep in scholarship applications, take some time this summer to experiment with new zen habits. Think of the process as mental exercise. Even if you aren't feeling stressed out right now, consider bulking up your stress-relief muscles today so that you can easily put them into action when stress arises.

Get started with these four zen habits.


1. Start singletasking. 

Multitaskers get a lot of hype, but often singletasking -- focusing all your mental energy on one highly specific task for a short spurt -- is the most effective way to work through your to-do list. Next time you feel overwhelmed by a multistep project, try out a popular singletasking trick called the Pomodoro Technique.  Choose a task, set an alarm for 25 minutes, and immerse yourself in your chosen task until the alarm rings. Then, take a short break and restart the process. Take a 20-30 minute break after you've completed four cycles. Make sure you reward yourself for making a plan and sticking to it.

2. Play with a cute animal.

If you have a pet in your family, lucky you! If not, consider offering free pet-sitting services to a neighbor, or asking a friend if you can stop by for some puppy time.  Call your local animal shelter -- most shelters are always looking for dog walkers and cat sitters and will be happy to work around your schedule.  There's nothing like an animal's unconditional love and uncontrollable cuteness to help you forget your daily stresses for a few minutes.


3. Take a day (or at least an hour) off.

Giving yourself a break might not feel easy, but it's a Zen method that really works. And if you're really resistant to that idea, you might be more in need of that break than ever! Stand up, stretch, and step outside. The act of physically leaving the workspace and looking out at the distant horizon (rather than a computer screen or textbook) gives your body a chance to reset and release tension. If you can, make plans that have nothing to do with your to-do list, like seeing a movie, wandering around a museum, eating lunch with a friend, or going for a bike ride. Laughing, connecting, and getting in touch with the world outside your to-do list will energize you, and you'll be able to return to your tasks feeling refreshed and restored.


4. Wake up 15 minutes early.

For a calmer, more zen morning, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual. You’ll be surprised by how much serenity those extra minutes add to your day! Whether you choose to spend that time sipping tea and meditating, listening to a funny podcast, reviewing for an upcoming test, or packing your lunch, you'll be able to move more slowly, breathe more deeply, and feel less frantic. Trust us: once you discover all the benefits of rising a little early, you won't miss the 15 minutes of sleep you skipped.

How do you stay zen and avoid academic burnout?  Tell us in 250 words or less and you could win our 2017 Summer of Zen Scholarship