University life is packed with adventure and excitement, but also presents challenges you may not have previously dealt with. It’s common for students to experience high levels of stress at points, with the pressure of life and studies making it difficult to cope.
What is student stress?
Stress is our body’s response to feeling under pressure internally or externally. That buzz of adrenaline you feel that propels you to work faster, for example, is considered healthy stress. While a small amount can keep us motivated and help us take action, too much can cause overwhelm and become problematic.
Stress as a student can manifest itself physically, mentally and emotionally. Physical signs of stress include faster breathing, a racing heart, dizziness, feeling sweaty or clammy, a dry mouth and insomnia. Mentally, stress can cause your thoughts to be jumbled, make decisions difficult and result in a negative frame of mind that’s hard to shift.
Student stress can also show itself emotionally, causing you to feel frustrated, irritable, insecure, angry and impatient amongst other difficult emotions.
Causes of student stress
Some reasons for experiencing student stress are:
- Exam studies
- Multiple deadlines
- Family problems
- Struggling to settle into a new place
- Money worries
- Being unable to cope with University workload
- Juggling paid work and study
When University stress could actually be depression
If your mood feels continuously low, you may be suffering from depression. This can be linked to stress or be altogether separate. Depression is an illness that requires support, and you should speak to your GP who can help you explore potential treatment options such as talking therapy or medication.
How to reduce stress as a University student
The good news about student stress is that there are many simple techniques to manage it. To reduce your stress levels as a University student, it’s important to take charge of the things you can control, which will in turn help with the things you can’t.
Below we’ve included some of the main techniques for helping to reduce stress as a student:
We’ve all been there with late-night revision cramming or racing to finish an essay – how would we survive without coffee? Too much caffeine, however, will cause you to feel jittery or anxious and prevent you from relaxing. Caffeine is present in tea, coffee, chocolate and energy drinks, and while most people can tolerate a certain amount, overdoing it can worsen your stress levels.
Look after your body
Student life can be a hectic stream of social and studying, so it’s easy to let your health slide. You should find your stress levels reduce, though, with a regular sleep pattern and a balanced diet. Even small changes can help, so don’t neglect to have an early night and a home-cooked meal when you need it.
Doing exercise is one of the best ways to burn off stress, helping you relax while also letting your mood benefit from the endorphins physical activity releases. As a student, you’ll have a range of exercise options to choose from on campus, plus many people find yoga helps them reduce stress, feel more relaxed and sleep better.
Deep breathing helps combat the racing heart often experienced when under stress. By concentrating solely on your breathing, you’ll naturally slow down the jumble of thoughts that can plague a stressed mind, helping you make decisions and feel less worried.
Keeping things bottled up means there’s no release. Use your support network to talk about how you’re feeling. It may help you take steps to deal with your stress triggers or simply feel lighter for being listened to.
While your feelings of stress won’t always be from external triggers, the less pressure you put yourself under the better. By putting some boundaries in place you’ll relieve additional stress so don’t be afraid to put yourself first.
How to cope with University workload
Your University workload is a factor that’s harder to control, as you won’t usually get a say in when deadlines or exams are set. Undoubtedly, you want to succeed in your studies and help safeguard your future, so learning to manage these demands will help you cope with your University workload throughout your studies.
The best way to manage your University workload is to organise your time efficiently. Use an online or paper calendar or diary to plot your deadlines and other fixed commitments including lectures, exams and employment. Then allocate the time you need to work on each project, blocking this out in your planner so you’re not tempted to fill the time with less important activity. You’ll then clearly see how much free time you have left, while knowing you’ve allowed ample time to complete your projects. Planning this way also helps you identify busy weeks ahead of time so you can feel more prepared.
It’s useful to over-allocate time for studying at least at first, as it can be tricky to accurately estimate how long research, essay writing and revision will take. While you study, you can track your time to give you a better indication of how long you need for certain tasks and use this for future planning.
If you find you’re still struggling to cope with your University workload or are experiencing high levels of stress, be sure to speak to a friend, lecturer or student services. It’s common to experience student stress, but the important thing is not feeling you have to combat it alone.