Today’s teens pack a lot into their busy schedules, which has caused stress levels and anxiety to increase in recent years. D’Andre Vasquez, DECA’s 2019-2020 High School Division President, discusses how he handles the stress in his life and how you can too!
What do you do to relieve stress?
The bulk of my stress release comes from physical exercise. I enjoy weightlifting, but with many gyms being closed, I have been doing more running, yoga and bodyweight exercise.
You have often discussed your journey to overcome the obstacles you have faced emotionally, mentally and physically. Exercise and physical activity seem to have played an important role. How has physical activity helped you to deal with the stress and anxiety you have faced?
I use physical activity as a source of success. Anytime I go to the gym or on a run, it presents a challenge or self-imposed adversity. I focus on meeting the challenge head-on to get a little bit better each day. I use that same strategy in my personal life to overcome adversity and fill myself with the confidence to overcome the challenges I face in school and life.
As a former executive officer and current full-time college student who recently started a new business, you are no stranger to a busy schedule. How do you make time to plan and prioritize fitness into your daily life?
Like most young adults, my schedule is packed from the time I get up until I go to bed. The key for me is to wake up early. It is difficult for me to sit through virtual classes without becoming restless. It is instrumental for me to make time in the morning and exert that energy. It helps me stay awake and focused during class, increases my retention and boosts my creativity. I recently launched a marketing consulting business that helps small businesses to stay afloat during the era of COVID-19. The time I devote to physical activity each day helps me stay innovative and come up with my best ideas.
What are your recommendations for someone wanting to begin their own fitness journey to help with stress relief?
Remember your “why.” What are your reasons for wanting to begin an exercise program? Keeping your motivation factors top-of-mind will help you stay focused. Also, ask for help! This could be a knowledgeable friend, an online resource, a fitness app or even a trainer. You want to achieve your goals and not injure yourself as you begin your fitness journey.
How can stressed DECA members find the right exercise routine for them?
Start slow and conservative. Sometimes when starting something new, it is exciting and you want to do everything. Don’t sprint first. Consider walking, hiking, jogging, then building your way up. Determine what success is for you (building muscle, losing body mass, de-stressing, etc.) then develop a plan of activities to help you meet that goal.
What are some tips you have for staying motivated to exercise when struggling with stress and anxiety?
I’ve always been a firm believer in consistency. It is tough to get started, but you have to start somewhere. It takes an average of three weeks to build a new habit into your routine. First, try to find a free resource with helpful tips or guides based on your goals. Second, stay consistent and make time every day. Third, don’t get discouraged. It can seem intimidating to compare yourself to others, but remember that it is a process; it doesn’t happen overnight. Finally, find what motivates you and let that be your reason why.
When serving as Executive President, I wanted to represent DECA’s members fully and be someone who doesn’t give up. When I would get tired during a run, I would channel my energy and think, “If I can give my full effort here, then I will be able to provide that much more to DECA.” Remember what motivates you during those tough times!
In an era of virtual or hybrid learning, many school athletics may not be happening, or gyms may not be open. What is your advice for members to stay active and fit during this time?
Focus on your mental health. For many, this could be relieving stress or anxiety through physical activity. Put yourself first and devote the time to help you stay sane, productive, efficient and happy. This will motivate you to stay productive in other areas of your life and to focus on the positive outcomes that you can control. Also, remember that you don’t need a gym or specialized equipment to be active.
Do you have any last thoughts or advice you would like to share with DECA’s members?
Stressing about your to-do list and procrastinating will only increase your stress. I encourage you to chip away at your tasks and organize yourself as much as possible. Invest your time in creating and using a planner or productivity app. Try to stay on top of things and take baby steps in the right direction until you’ve created a system that works for you. In the end, you will be happier, less stressed out and hopefully more productive.
Thank you, D’Andre for sharing your personal connection between exercise and stress relief – and why physical activity should be part of your stress management plan.
Physical activity is a powerful way to help individuals manage stress. It benefits both the body and the mind and creates lifelong physical and emotional health benefits. Almost any form of exercise, from running and yoga to dancing and playing frisbee, can act as a stress reliever. You don’t have to be a Varsity athlete!
Exercise is an effective tool for stress management for two reasons. First, it provides an opportunity for immediate stress release by boosting feel-good endorphins that distract you from daily worries. Even though making time for exercise can be challenging, be consistent and you will feel the benefits. Second, with consistency and repetition over time, your body and mind will learn to respond to stress more effectively.
Whatever form of exercise you enjoy most is the best bet. Why? Because if you like doing it, you’re more likely to want to do it on a daily basis! Find a way of being active that’s enjoyable. Making time for exercise is a crucial part of having a healthy balance in life and keeping your mind focused and clear. The benefits that come from moving your body will help keep your stress under control.
Note: Physical exercise can be subject to a risk of serious injury. Listen to your body. Consult a doctor before using workout equipment or starting any routine program.