Managing Stress: a guide from one stressed student to another

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Psychology student, Amelia, shares her tips on dealing with stress:

I think that everyone who goes to university knows how stressful it is to be a student. In the midst of deadlines, revision, keeping up with friends and hobbies, and managing money, it can be difficult to remember to look after yourself. However, the absolute best way to manage stress is to take time with yourself and figure out what you really need to unwind.

From personal experience, I know it is hard to know where to start sometimes. So, I’ve tried to put together a list that has helped me in the past at university, and hopefully will help you.

  1. Where do I start?

Start by taking some time out (not before bed - get some sleep!) to pinpoint your stressors. A couple of areas to explore could be:

  • Your course - are you stressed about the amount of work you have to do? A specific assignment? How you will get your desired grade? Or are you unsure if your course is right for you?
  • Money - struggling to budget, or cover your basic costs? Are you worried about bills, rent, food, but you still really want to buy another Cosy Winter Jumper (me)?
  • After uni - not sure what you want to do when you graduate? Worried about job applications or your finances?
  • Social situations - are you not enjoying living in your house/accommodation, or do you need some more personal space? Is there drama with your friendship circles, either at uni or back home?
  • Home life - are situations outside of university putting a strain on you?
  • Other - are you just taking on too much, leaving you tired and burnt out? Are you sleeping and eating okay? Have you kept up with your hobbies?

It might be a good idea to write down all the stresses that you are experiencing, so they are there in front of you for you to see. Then, you can really get a grip on them. It may be the case you can’t really name what is stressing you - in that case, maybe explore why you know you’re stressed - e.g. because you’re sleeping later, or seeing your friends less, or you’ve lost your appetite. This will give you some areas to work on, too.

  1. Okay, cool. What can I do now?

So, you’ve put your stress into words. What now?

Well, for some stressors, there might be direct ways to help yourself. If you’re stressed about a certain assignment, visit the lecturer in their contact time, or ask questions on Moodle forums; if you are worried about finances, seek help from the Financial Advisers in Student Services; if you want to change accommodation, you can do that through the accommodation centres.

For other stressors, there may not be quick or easy solutions. Stress is a part of the student experience - university is meant to be challenging for us, and navigating our social spaces and all other activities in addition to our courses can be tough. In this situation, try to schedule in some time for self-care.

Scheduling in this time sends a message to yourself that your wellbeing is as much as a priority as your work and your friends - which it is! For 10 or 20 minutes a day, try to do something that:

  • You need to do, e.g. laundry, cooking, cleaning, showering - this will help you feel more on top of things.
  • You enjoy, e.g. hobbies like art, writing, reading, exercise, make-up, socialising, watching a show - it’s important to have pleasurable activities in your day, too. Joining a society can be a great way to make sure you have a break each week from the things that stress you.
  1. I think I need some extra help...

You do not have to manage your stress on your own. There are so many resources available to us through the university, which I will outline here, but don’t forget that your friendship circles can be really valuable here. Talking to the people around you and having those supportive bonds can be really helpful when you’re stressed.

  • Student services - this is probably where I would go first. They offer regular counselling sessions but, if you don’t want that, they do drop-ins every day, which is really helpful if you just really need a chat or some advice. They also offer specific services to help with finances, careers and students with disabilities.
  • Student Minds - the student minds society runs different workshops and group sessions to help students. I would recommend getting in touch with them to find out what they could do for you.
  • Your GP - if your anxiety is prolonged and impacting your day-to-day life, or you feel like you are in a slump you can’t get out of, go to your GP. The GP will signpost you to the best available services for you. As someone with anxiety and depression, I can be a bit sceptical about GPs - will they listen to me? Will it lead to something helpful? But I have found the University Medical Centre to be really helpful for me.

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