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Vicki

5 tips to manage university stress

By Vicki Colquhoun, Content Volunteer at Health in Mind

The stress of university can be a difficult experience to manage, learning how to balance everyday fun with essay writing, and coping with new workloads (without panicking!) can be a daunting experience.

Trust me, I know! I am the queen of stress. Stress didn’t really have a clear definition to me until I became a student, that’s when I really polished off my crown and took my place as queen. I was 20 years old, and seriously lacking any knowledge of how to manage stress in a kind, loving way. It wasn’t until I began to practice self-care and really take care of myself: setting boundaries, listening to my body and mind, that I learned how to manage my student stresses. 

There definitely has been a lot of trial and error, but over my academic years I have learned a few tricks. Now, I use them daily, especially for those sudden unexpected moments, hello anxiety-driven emails! Over the last year, so many students have been completing their courses and degrees over Zoom from bedroom floors and kitchen tables. I can’t even imagine how stressful that must be. So, here are my 5 tips to manage university stress, for any student trying to find some inner peace.

Develop a bedtime routine

Nothing screams stress like not getting enough sleep at night. Yeah, that’s right, I said night. As students, I think we have all been there; hunched over our notebooks, laptops and textbooks at 2am to finish an essay.

As a perfectionist, I struggled with going to bed; there was always one more sentence I ‘had’ to write. But, doing your best is not overworking yourself. Having a bedtime allows you to prioritize rest and tells your brain it’s time to stop. So, set an alarm for bed and step away from your phone (I see you social media scrollers!)

Stay organised

Talking about hunching over a laptop at 2am, nothing is more stressful than forgetting an assignment due in the morning. Staying organised is highly underrated, but sometimes doing things that stress us out are just too overwhelming. Writing down all the tasks, deadlines and to-dos in a list can ease your mind.

You can use this list to easily pick out what you need to plan and complete the easiest tasks first. Keep notes, a realistic to-do list, a planner or phone reminders. They really can help you to stay calm about your tasks and achieve your workload in manageable steps.

Take breaks

Don’t forget to schedule in some fun! I know it can be difficult, especially when you want to power through, but knowing when to take a break can help to lower stress. Research suggests that our brains can only focus up to an hour and a half at a time, and needs up to 15 minutes of rest afterwards.

So, have some fun! Watch an episode of your favourite show, go for a walk or go make some tea. For me, it’s music, even if it’s putting on the cheesiest 2000’s playlist on Spotify (NSYNC, I’m talking about you!) And singing along like you’re the next Beyoncé. Rest is productive. It took me a long time to learn not to feel guilty for giving my mind what it needs.

Talk  

Is there a greater feeling than finding the confidence to admit your stresses and worries to your uni mates, and for them to go: ‘same’? Talking can be such a simple thing, yet we often neglect to do it when we’re feeling stressed. Pick up the phone and text someone you trust. Talk to lecturers about your worries, even if it’s a simple reassurance. Zoom that one person who knows you better than yourself.

I know it can be difficult to ask for help, but I promise you are not a burden. There are people who want to help you, listen to you and support you with your university stress. Talking helps.

Stop and breathe

Have you ever sat down to do an essay, and your brain is flooded with the dreaded what-ifs and stressful imaginary scenarios? Stop and take a deep breath. It doesn’t need to be long, but taking even one minute to stop the overthinking can help to bring clarity.

As a panicker, I’m pretty well-known to stop my work, close my eyes and breathe. Sometimes, I even step away from my laptop. I normally feel more calm, collected and ready to get back to work.

Just remember

Although stress can have a huge impact on our wellbeing, there is help out there, and things we can do to reduce stress ourselves. To any students struggling or worried, even if you can’t see it right now, you are doing an amazing job.

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