National Stress Awareness Day: Managing Stress at University

Designer | Helena Keeble

University can be an extremely stressful time for many students. You are expected to juggle your academic work, fit in exercise, perhaps have a paid job, or two, or three to keep your finances stable, as well as maintain a social life in an already busy term. Finding this balance can be one of the hardest things students have to do during their degree. It is often a detrimental cause to our mental health. People either end up giving up, just turning up to lectures here and there because they cannot cope with managing their time and the increasing stress as deadlines increase and money runs out, or people go into hyper drive, surviving on the minimal sleep possible in order to simply keep their mind and body working so they can get their work in on time, turn up to all their shifts at work and go on those nights out with their friends. While fitting all of these aspects into your university life can seem to be impossible, it is the planning and taking time for yourself that will help you get through the tough times. It can be so tempting to just curl up in bed with a good Netflix series and a takeaway, trying to ignore everything that is piling up. But at the end of the day, the deadlines and everything else will still be there. So here are my top tips to dealing with these obstacles in order to cope with and manage your stress levels so that you can be your calmest self during the craziness of university life.

1. Write down all your deadlines in your calendar as soon as you know them

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This may sound cliché, but write them down  so that you don’t get any nasty surprises in the middle on term. Try to write out a rough schedule for your week so that you can see what free time you have between lectures and your job etc. You will then be able to see where you can fit in a session in the library or going and seeing a movie with your friends in the evening. By planning you are eliminating as many possibilities for stressful surprises as you can. You will then be more prepared and able to cope with these surprises that university and people throw at you in life, with less stress and will therefore have a much more reasonable and rational approach to difficulties that appear.

2. Separate your university work with your job work in your mind

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It can be so easy to think you’re doing all your work when you’re working your 20 hours a week at a job, but you need to make sure that you remember your academic work as well. By planning your time, you will see the free time that you can go to the library or go study with a friend. It can be easy to think that, because you’ve worked a six hour shift in the office or the shop, that you’ve done all your work, because after all, you have been working hard and do need to rest. However, you also need to ensure that your job doesn’t become your priority. At the end of the day, you’re at university to get a degree.

3. Budgeting

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In this age it is way too easy to order that £15 takeaway or to order clothes and computer games online. Everyone who comes to university will be in a different position with money. Some won’t have to work as hard as others, but this is why it is so important for everyone to budget. Your friend may be asking you to go out all the time, or to go get dinner out, but you may be in a worse financial situation than them. And that’s ok! It can be hard to say, “sorry, I can’t afford that”, or “can we wait until pay day”, but if that is what your budget says, then you should do it. It is way too easy to just go along with your friends, spending money in the same way as them, but afterwards it is you who is panicking that you’re in your overdraft or that you owe someone money. It may be hard, but fight your gut instinct and simply tell someone that you can’t afford to do that activity today. They won’t un-friend you because of it. If you still want to hang out together, try suggesting a cheaper alternative like a movie night at home with popcorn and pizza from the supermarket. At the end of the day you will still have been able to see your friends and have not negatively affected your bank balance in the process. Everyone at university is from different backgrounds, and that is one of the greatest things about university since you meet so many different people, but it is important to respect that everyone can only afford different things and you don’t have to spend money all the time in order to see each other. Reduce your financial stress and simply just invite them over to yours or another activity that is either cheaper or free to do – there’s plenty if you research them.

4. Analyse your friendships

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It is important at university to make sure that you’re not in a toxic friendship. No one should ever make you feel down about yourself or make you do something you don’t want to or make you doubt your own thoughts and morals. We meet so many people over the course of our degree and sometimes it is someone who negatively impacts us. It happens too easily, but if you take the time to analyse your relationships with those you’re close to, it could save you a lot of stress and time if you can spot the negative influencer. It is hard, but cutting them out of your life will be one of the best things you can do. When you’re in the middle of it, it can be hard to see how much it affects you, but if you get out early, it is surprising how quickly it can affect your positivity and stress levels.

5. Get up and get out

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This applies both to going to your lectures and simply getting out of bed before midday, as well as getting in your daily exercise. It can be too easy to gain a lot of weight at university, particularly if you’re someone who eats your stress. So set your alarm each day, even if you think you don’t have a reason to be up early that day. You may not have work or a lecture scheduled, but you could go for a run or get some of your reading done in the time that you over-sleep at the weekends. Get to bed earlier and utilize your time effectively in the morning, it may be hard, but you will automatically notice your stress levels reducing, even on the first day.

6. Finally, give yourself time to relax and sleep

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This is the most imperative one. Without rest and sleep your body cannot operate and you will automatically be putting stress on your body, physically and mentally. Work out how your body works. Sometimes people want to stay up later to work as that’s when they are the most efficient, but more often than not, if you change your routine so that you get enough sleep at night by going to bed earlier you will be able to complete more of your to-do list and feel much better about it. You can then use that time before your sleep to reflect on the day, see your friends and work out what you want to achieve the next day. This will mean your more relaxed and able to sleep easier, allowing your body to physically and mentally recover from all your hard work that day.

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