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Top 5 tips to manage stress at university

As the new academic year commences and students are set to embark on, or indeed, return to their university course. It is important to remember to look after our mental health, especially after the interruptions and difficulties we have all faced over the last 18 months with the pandemic.

The mental health charity Mind conducted a coronavirus survey which revealed the following results:

  • Nearly one in three adults (30%) and over one in three young people (34%) said that their mental health has got much worse during the pandemic.
  • Over half of young people (59%) said they will enjoy school, college or university more once restrictions ease. But around one in five (21%) do not think they will enjoy school, college or university without restrictions.

It isn’t hard to tell that people are still worried and this will impact on students’ studies.

So, what are the signs of stress so we can identify this in ourselves or help a friend who might be struggling? Well there are a number of common reactions to stressful situations these can include:

  • Behavioural – Avoiding or escaping from certain situations, turning to alcohol or drugs to cope, changes in appetite or struggling to concentrate and irritability.
  • Physical – Nausea, increased heart rate, headaches, sweating or shaking are just some of the ways stress can physically manifest.
  • Psychological – Fear, Panic, Depression and Anxiety.

With the return to our ‘new normal’ how can you deal with stress in a healthy way? Our handy tips may help alleviate some of your stress...

1. Exercise

Stress and anxiety alter the body’s respiratory rate: a way to combat this is through exercise – we aren’t all going to be running marathons, but, going out for a walk and increasing your heart rate a little will help to oxygenate your blood. It will also release endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormone.

2. Mindfulness

Chronic stress can impair the body's immune system and make many other health problems worse. By lowering the stress response, mindfulness may have downstream effects throughout the body. Take a look at some free apps to get you started here.

3. Keep connected

Talk to someone: a friend or family member, staying connected through Facetime or Skype can really help to feel like you are not alone. But what can you do if you don’t have anywhere to turn? Student Support Services at your university is a great place to start or contacting organisations such as Student Space or Papyrus could really help.

4. Time Management

Taking control of your time management can really help reduce stress, not just in terms of study. Managing study time and breaking down tasks into small manageable chunks can really help you to feel more relaxed. Maintaining a schedule to allocate time to study or work, planning accordingly and allocating yourself some downtime to relax or socialise. Dividing work into urgent and non-urgent tasks may help to release some of the pressure. Especially if you can see this visually. Set achievable goals and don’t overload yourself.

5. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential in combating stress. Guidance on this says 7-8 hours of quality sleep is recommended. Try relaxing before bed, avoiding laptop or phone screens as much as possible, sitting quietly to read or watch your favourite tv show. If you sleep in the same area you study, try covering your books and desk with a sheet or hide with a screen.

Other ways to manage stress:

  • Eat healthily
  • Take a break from social media
  • Laugh
  • Keep your living space tidy
  • Join a club
  • Find an outlet that works for you – This could be running, baking, arts and crafts, writing – something to take your mind off the daily stressors that you are facing
  • But most of all seek support – don’t suffer in silence!

The above tips may help you manage your stress but they are by no means a cure. If you are struggling with any mental health matters please contact your GP.

Written by Laura Cunningham, Social Media Editor

1st September, 2021