- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Features Team
Trinity is a massive contradiction in Oxford: just as the sun comes out, so do the books. Lazy afternoons of Pimms and punting are too often superseded by long hours locked in the library. Guilty of even dreaming of a carefree picnic on Port Meadows, the pressure can sometimes be overwhelming. Luckily for you, the OxStu Features team has scoured the internet for stress busters guaranteed to fit into a 20 minute break. Even better for you, we’ve actually tried them… with varying degrees of success.
Used since antiquity for enjoyment and medicinal purposes, herbal teas (or ‘tisanes’) have scientifically proven effects. However, as the team discovered, the taste can leave something to be desired…
Valerian – Valerian tea smells awful, and tastes worse. Unable to persuade any of my housemates to try it in my stead (the pungent smell of pea soup gone bad put them off…), I took a (very) deep breath, held my nose and forced it down. Though sceptical about its purported ability to aid sleep, I headed to bed and before I could count to three, I was out. I woke up the next morning with the unpleasant aftertaste still in my mouth and the strange feeling someone had forcibly knocked me out. If you’re having trouble sleeping I can vouch for its effectiveness, but I think the benefits of a good night of unaided sleep win hands down. Overall rating: **
Black tea – Someone once told me black tea was supposed to be relaxing, and so I started drinking it instead of my normal white and two sugars as the OxStu deadlines piled up. Result? Honestly nothing, just a slight irritation every time I have a cupper that doesn’t taste quite as good as normal tea. Overall rating: *
Mint tea – At 64p for 20 tea bags from Tesco’s, mint tea is a pretty good value stress buster, it’s just a shame it’s like drinking melted toothpaste. In the words of a willing volunteer I got to try it, ‘Mint just shouldn’t be warm.’ As far as health benefits go, mint tea promises to aid digestion, but I can’t say I’ve been able to drink enough to notice any effects; I made it through a sizable cup and decided that was enough. It’s caffeine free and so I suppose it’s a relaxing alternative to actual tea in the evening but I’m sure there must be other, better tasting products around. That said, I’ve given the remaining 19 tea bags to a friend who actually liked the stuff. Overall rating: ***
Camomile tea – Camomile tea is made camomile flowers, which are part of the sunflower family. As well as reputedly having a soporific effect, the camomile plant is also said to turn hair blonde…Lush even sell a camomile conditioning hair mask, which is supposed to bring out highlights. Camomile teabags are widely available and inexpensive. After brewing for 3-5 minutes, honey can be added, or the tea can be drunk plain. The flavour is grassy and flowery; it’s not unpleasant, and, providing the tea bag isn’t brewed for too long, is subtle and comforting. The ritual of steeping the tea and watching the hot water turn golden is relaxing: it’s definitely a sunny tea to drink. Any stress-relieving properties may be more to do with a placebo effect, but the tea is caffeine-free so is a good drink for calming rather than stimulating, and just taking five minutes to prepare it allows a pause for reflection. Overall rating: ****
Warm milk and honey with a bit of cinnamon – Cinnamon is definitely my favourite flavour so I was much happier to try this method out. The taste of warm milk quickly opened the floodgates to childhood memories, and the cinnamon added something different to the drink. However, one word of warning; make sure you don’t put too much cinnamon in your drink. One unlucky friend poured too much in and had the disgusting experience of drinking something which tasted more like a scented candle than a stress-busting beverage. However, it did send me to sleep so maybe it works a bit too well? Overall rating: ****
What easier than adding one of these so called superfoods to your diet? Replace those chocolate digestives with some of our healthier alternatives.
Blueberries – Blueberries are nature’s “super foods”, but often they have been slammed for their bland taste. I disagree. After working my way through a punnet of blueberries, I didn’t feel particularly relaxed or chilled. Maybe this feeling was outweighed by my smugness about cleansing my body with 100% of my RDA of vitamin C. Even though they didn’t help me de-stress, I think I have found myself a new snack food. Overall rating: ****
Tuna – Rich in vitamins B6 and B12, Tuna is meant to be great for stress relief. I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of the classic tuna mayonnaise sandwich, but tuna steak is another kettle of fish all together (pun totally intended). Marinated in anything yummy (think butter or soya sauce if you want to be fashionably fusion) griddle, barbeque, pan fry or grill each side for just 2 minutes and you have a healthy meal full of stress busting goodness. At the end of my dinner, I’m feeling remarkably relaxed – but that could just be due to a decent meal after a week of frozen pizzas and quick cook pasta. Overall rating: *****
Holy Basil – Holy basil is woody and leafy, and is supposedly full of antioxidants. It is available as a plant, although it is reasonably difficult to obtain, and can also be ingested via capsules or as a tea. I bought some stems to try the ancient Thai stress-relieving technique of chewing on the leaves. The taste is strong and pungent, almost spicy, and the feeling of chewing on leaves is a bit odd. In terms of stress relief, I didn’t feel particularly relaxed after my encounter with the plant. The exotic smell did make me think of Thai restaurants and the summer though, so maybe its real strength lies in its ability to transport people through its scent… Overall rating: **
Cornflakes – I’ve always protested that my mid-morning latte and almond croissant make a perfectly decent breakfast and wasn’t too impressed with the idea of swapping with them for a bowl of cornflakes. None the less, I gave it a go and was favourably surprised. They’re really not as bad as I remember them and, having them first thing in the morning, it meant I wasn’t cranky and hungry as I headed to the library. I was able to make a good start to the day and wasn’t even craving lunch any earlier. My morning bowl of cereal is a new routine I’m going to stick to. Overall rating: ****
Revision not really whetting your appetite or just fancy a breath of fresh air? Make the most of your break with a couple of our tried and tested activities.
Just-a-minute meditation technique – This is a meditation technique that encourages people to devote just one minute at a time to meditation, whenever they feel in need of a break. The philosophy is that no one is too busy to meditate, and one minute listening to your own breathing, thoughts and trying to refocus your energy is enough to rejuvenate. I try to practise every couple of hours by closing my eyes and trying to slow down my thoughts for one minute. It’s more difficult than it sounds, as it’s hard to go from a highly alert state to one of relaxation. After each minute though, I do feel more peaceful, although the feeling disappears relatively quickly. Overall rating: ****
Regular Exercise – Having bought a second hand bike over holidays (thank you gum tree) I decided to ride 10 miles everyday, not only to bust the Trinity stress – well slight pressure, I am a second year historian after all – but get my beach torso in the process. Despite some rather grim rides in the rain, and three near death experiences, I can honestly say it works! Not only do I feel physically fitter, but I’m sleeping better and work is much easier. And as if that weren’t enough I’ve got see to some of the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. Overall rating: *****
5 minutes of back with legs up a wall – I am not the most flexible of people, and the thought of anything yoga-related is enough to send me straight back to bed, but I thought I would give this stress relief a try. After all, what better excuse for procrastinating than lying on your back with your legs vertically against a wall whilst listening to calming music and breathing deeply for 5 minutes? In theory, it sounded a great idea. But in practise, after 2 minutes I felt the painful stretching of my muscles as the blood flowed out my legs. What had started out as a tip for stress relief had now turned into a painful exercise which left me with numb legs and a sore head. Maybe this one is for the more athletic people out there. Overall rating: **
Yelling as hard as you can – Checking very carefully everyone was out of the house, I stood in the middle of the living room and tried yelling. Not sure what I was meant to be shouting I stuck with a safe “AHHH!” while listening carefully for any sound of someone next door mistaking my stress busting tactics for domestic abuse. To be honest, rather than liberated, I was left feeling just a little bit awkward and in dire need of a cup of tea. Overall rating: **