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Stressed student

How to manage stress at university

For most people, their university days are some of the best of their lives — they are times many will look back on in years to come and reminisce about fondly. However, that isn’t to say that university is easy. Students face a lot of changes in their lives at once, and this can be a challenge to say the least. This can lead to some students struggling with stress.

What is stress?

Stress is an unpleasant feeling which can be defined as our body’s response to pressures. Physical symptoms can include an increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, ‘butterflies’, headaches, and over-breathing. Stress can also lead to feelings of anxiety, fear and panic.

What can cause stress in students?

Students are living away from home, usually in a new city or even a new country, and so they don’t have their usual support network around them of family and old friends. Of course, the majority of students make lots of friends over the first few weeks of university, some of which will be friends for life. But others may struggle to find people they click with, or they may be more introverted and not enjoy the usual methods of meeting people.

Alongside this, there are new things to worry about such as rent and bills, which most students haven’t had to deal with before now.

On top of this, university itself can provide a lot of pressure, with looming coursework deadlines and exams. Throw in a lack of sleep if you’ve been partying hard or your housemates have, and the stress can build and build.

Stressed student

How can students manage stress?

Stress may not be completely avoidable for students, as there are often a lot of factors involved. However, it can be managed. How you deal with stress is key to if it turns into a major health problem or not. So, follow the tips below to keep on top of stressful times. The cause of stress will be different for everyone, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Get a good night’s sleep if you can — a well rested mind is a calmer mind.
  • Exercise — not only is this good for your physical health, but it’s very good for your mental health too.
  • Eat well — a balanced diet supports a healthy body and mind.
  • If you’re struggling to make friends at university, join a club or society to meet people with similar interests.
  • Talk to friends — if you are feeling the pressure, share your feelings with others instead of keeping it all bottled up.
  • If your stress isn’t easing or gets worse, talk to someone at your university such as a tutor or the student union. You may also want to consider visiting your GP if you are struggling. There are lots of people you can turn to for help — you are not alone.
  • If you are short of money and this is causing you stress, consider getting a part-time job, but only if it won’t affect your studies, as that could lead to more stress.
  • Get organised with your uni work — the more organised you are with coursework and revision, the calmer you will feel about it, and the better you will do in your work and exams. You may also have the opportunity to resit an exam should you fail it due to mitigating circumstances.
  • Remember that being a student is a time for learning, and not only in an educational sense — you will learn a lot of life lessons during your time at uni, so don’t expect to get everything right first time. Be kind to yourself.
  • If your housemates are more interested in partying than studying, try studying elsewhere or organise housemate study sessions where, even if they don’t join in, everyone must be quiet for that period of time.
  • Remember to have fun! It could be that you’ve got so caught up in your studies, you have forgotten to take some time out and relax. Make sure to schedule this in — it’s important.
  • Try not to compare yourself to others — everyone is unique, and we all have differing strengths and weaknesses.
  • Don’t try to deal with your stress by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or taking drugs — this is not healthy and will just make things worse for you.
Calm student

Are you missing home? Read our How to cope with homesickness at university blog post for some helpful advice.

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