Stress and Anxiety – University Problems.
Although University can be some of the best days of your life, for most people University can also be rather stressful. Whether this can stem from worries about money, finding a job, making friends or meeting deadlines, here are a few general tips to keep you stress-free – and ways of dealing with your stress when you do become overwhelmed.
Simple Tips to Prevent Stress
Here are some simple ways to avoid stress or to least keep stress away for longer. Stress can sometimes be due to lack of preparation, so here are some ways to prepare for any stressful tasks ahead.
Support Systems in Place
First of all, it’s important to know you don’t have to deal with stress and anxiety alone. When anxiety and stress get too overwhelming, it can have a very serious effect on your mental health. If you have an anxiety disorder or feel your general mental health is being seriously affected by your worries, it is important to contact your university’s wellbeing team. It is likely you will be able to find more information about your individual university and its support systems on their website. If you have a mental health condition I would recommend you make yourself known to the well-being team prior to starting university, as some will check up on you occasionally throughout your first semester so you don’t have to feel alone.
Managing Your Time
Making sure you are making the best use of your time is the best way to deal with stress, by doing this there is usually nothing to worry about! A great way of organising your time effectively is to create a timetable for yourself that includes all the plans and things you need to do and allow yourself some time to complete these tasks over a period of time. There are many online websites that provide timetable templates if you wish to use them. Remember, it is best to get started on tasks as early as possible as it will mean you are less worried about them later on. It is important not to have unrealistic expectations of yourself, so don’t start your timetable at 8 am when you know you can’t usually drag yourself out of bed till 10 o clock. Also, remember the timetable you make is a rough guide. As long as you aim to get as much done as possible don’t worry about not doing everything on your timetable. Some days you might not wish to do anything at all – but by just doing a small part of a task means you will have less regrets the next day and keep your stress levels to a minimum.
You may not be a bodybuilding fanatic or a get-up and go sort of person, but there is a strong link between exercise and good mental health. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make peace with your hatred for football or sweat it out at the gym though if that really isn’t your style. Most UK universities provide cheap gym membership and offer classes for activities such as yoga and circuits, some even have a pool if you like swimming! If you’re not keen on paying for a membership, at some gyms you are able to pay for one-off sessions. There are obviously ways you can exercise for free, such as going for a walk or run. This a great way to exercise and unwind after a stressful day and something you can do alone or with a friend.
Having a good night’s sleep is very important in making you feel good in general, so it’s particularly important when you need to manage a stressful situation. If you’re aware your sleeping pattern is pretty abysmal and your average bedtime is 3 am, try to adjust this over a few nights by trying to wake up and go to bed half an hour earlier till your body clock is adjusted to a suitable time. If you find this hard or near impossible because you’re a bit of a night owl, then it’s time to play to your strengths. Start working later and as a consequence don’t finish working till later in the day, although make sure you have enough time to wind down to get a good night’s sleep.
Simple Tips for when Stress Strikes
When you do get stressed and worried over deadlines, money or juggling your time, it’s never too late to resolve it. Here are some tips that may not necessarily take all your stress away like magic, but will alleviate some of your anxiety and make you feel a little better.
Always come prepared for stress with rescue remedy. Rescue Remedy is a company who offer a selection of products to target stress. Whether you’re worried about an exam, assignment or just having a stressful day, Rescue Remedy is designed to help you feel more relaxed when nervous or stressed. The herbal remedy comes in many different forms such as chewing gum and different flavoured tasty sweets and has products designed for targeting all kinds of worry, such as helping you to sleep at night.
Have a Drink
Having a drink will keep you hydrated and maintain your wellbeing. A hot drink, in particular, will relax you when you’re stressed, especially a cup of tea. Coldwater or juice is also a good way of soothing yourself when stressed so you feel refreshed and ready to deal with whatever is worrying you. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks may not be advisable when you are worried about something, as caffeine can increase your heart rate to the point where you may feel even more anxious than before! Try decaf coffee if you’re a real coffee addict. Caffeinated coffee when you’re stressed every once in a while isn’t so bad, but I’d definitely steer clear of the espresso.
Take a Break
When stress gets too much, put your work down and do something to unwind for a short while. You may want to take a day or maybe just a few hours off when things get too much. Be sure to not distract yourself for too long though, as the things you need to do will become more overwhelming the longer you leave them. There are a great many ways to relax and unwind that is more interesting than staring at Facebook for a few hours, such as reading a book you’ve been wanting to read for a while for a bit of escapism. Colouring is currently the new relaxing fad for adults at the moment, it's popularly an indication of how well it works for a lot of people! Print out a colouring sheet or buy yourself a themed adult colouring book to relax. Watching one of your favourite TV shows is also a great way to unwind in your break and to distract yourself from any stressful feelings. Taking time out can also be used to reward yourself after putting in some hard work.
Act on your Frustration
Sometimes when we are stressed we can get angry and frustrated with ourselves. At times like this, it’s better to vent this frustration rather than hold it in. To avoid breaking something important like your laptop when you’re stressed out, punch a pillow, screw up some paper, take a walk or head to the gym. There is no point continuing with your work until you’re clear-headed again. This is the same for other emotions if you’re upset about something it’s best to take a break until you feel better again. Cry it out and watch a film before you get back to resolving whatever is worrying you!
Working through it
Sometimes the best solution to alleviate stress is to work through it. Are money troubles bothering you? Come up with a plan to overcome it. Is your workload feeling overwhelming? Organise your work into priority and work on something. Even if you’re stuck for what to write or what to do, write something down no matter how small to alleviate some of your worries. If it’s an essay you don’t know how to start, do a bit of research and start a plan. If it’s revision, start by writing about what you know about the topic. By doing something about the reason for your stress gives you back some control over something that may feel like it’s taking over your life.
Talk to Somebody
Sometimes when we don’t talk about what’s worrying us leads us to overthink our worry and feel overwhelmed. By skyping a friend or family members like your mum and dad to talk about your worry can help to alleviate your stress, as it’s not just in your head anymore. You know what they say – A problem shared is a problem halved! It’s very important not to isolate yourself. If you don’t wish to talk about the subject of your stress, talking with people is a great distraction and can rid you of some worry. If you feel you have nobody to talk to, talk to a member of your university’s wellbeing team or else record your thoughts about what’s worrying you on paper as a way to get it out of your system. If it’s academia related, talk to a member of academic staff who you think might be able to help you.
A great way of motivating you to overcome a stressful situation is to reward yourself. Finally got that exam over and your assignments in that you’ve been worrying about? Treat yourself! Have a drink with friends, save to buy something nice or order a takeaway, whatever way you choose to treat yourself can be motivation to get through the stressful situation on your mind. Even ways to stay on task as you revise or work through an assignment could be easily done just by treating yourself with a nice meal at the end of the day or some tasty snacks throughout your work.
University can be a very stressful time, it is highly likely you will feel some stress in the years you attend. By following these steps will mean you’re well prepared for whatever stresses university life throws at you.
Emma Collier, 19. English Literature student.
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