Five stress management tips for students

University can be a wonderful and exciting experience, but it also brings its own unique challenges[1]. It’s natural to feel nervous or overwhelmed at times, but it’s important that these feelings are effectively managed to prevent them becoming damaging.

In 2018, a study by The Insight Network[2] found that only 12% of students said they’ve never had feelings of anxiety, while over four in five (88%) reported varying levels of stress or anxiety. Nearly half (43%) said they were often or always worried or anxious.

That’s why for Stress Awareness Week, Aidan Moloney from the Student Support Services department at The University of Law, has compiled a list of top tips based on the recommendations of mental health experts from companies such as Bupa UK, to help students deal with the stresses of university life.


Sleep well


Whilst a good night’s sleep can seem like it’s easier said than done in the run up to deadlines or exams, it’s important to remember that it is vital to our health and wellbeing and will ultimately help with academic performance.

Lack of sleep can lead to both physical and mental exhaustion, reducing our ability to function effectively, lowering productivity and having a negative impact on our general mental health.

Fatmata Kamara, Specialist Nurse Adviser from Bupa UK said: “Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, and get into a routine of winding down for at least two hours before you go to bed.

“Stress can affect your sleep quality, so use your pre-sleep hours to destress and take some time for yourself – taking a warm, relaxing bath or lose yourself in some light reading.”


Take things one step at a time


Deadlines and exams often come at the same time of the year, building up and creating what can appear to be a daunting amount of work.

In these situations, it’s important to take things one step at a time and plan efficiently. You may not be able to tackle each task one by one, but planning out dedicated periods to accomplish different tasks means that you’ll stay on top of your work, and it will seem much more manageable.

Leading UK Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist, Nick Davies said: “Focus on achieving one thing at a time. Multitasking can create confusion and lead to mistakes which could further exacerbate your stress levels.”


Preparation is key


University deadlines are daunting at the best of times, but they should never be left to the last minute, as this can have a negative impact on your mental health, leading to high stress levels as you rush to complete work in a short amount of time.

Instead, make sure you’re well prepared way in advance of any deadlines. Begin small amounts of revision around a month before the exam itself, gradually expanding your revision time as the big day gets closer.

Similarly for essays and coursework, ensure that you leave yourself plenty of time to complete the task to the best of your ability. Not only will this likely lead to better results, but it will make the deadlines much more manageable.

Aidan Moloney at ULaw adds: “Leaving yourself with too little time to complete an assignment can add greatly to stress levels. Planning ahead and beginning your revision or coursework weeks ahead of the due date will allow you to prepare over a period of time, reducing stress and improving performance at the same time.”


Open up


Over three quarters (76%) of students admitted to not speaking to others about their mental health[3], but students should never feel like this is something they need to deal with alone.

Universities have support services which specialise in helping students deal with academic stress, or alternatively there are external counselling services offering similar services.

If you’re finding a particular module or your workload is causing you problems, speaking to your tutors may help you deal with your problems and resolve issues such as managing your academic workload.

Aidan Moloney at ULaw adds: “While it’s important to seek counselling if you’re struggling to manage stress, always remember that if your workload is affecting your mental health, your tutors might be able to help.

“Whether this means extending deadlines, or simply helping you find a way to manage your time efficiently, your tutors will be able to help you cut down on work related stress.”

Finally, remember that you can open up to your friends and family. Letting people know that you’re struggling is not a sign of weakness, and you will often find that opening up and speaking about your problems will help you to deal with them.

Do something you enjoy


Extracurricular activities can be a great way of taking your mind off academic stresses.

Regular exercise is proven to benefit mental health, releasing endorphins and relieving feelings of stress or tension. There are also various mindfulness techniques that can help deal with stress or anxiety, many of which are available online or via apps such as Headspace.

Alternatively, simply making time in your day to do something you enjoy will improve your wellbeing, giving you something to look forward to, and a distraction from academic stressors.

Reaching out in times of stress can be a great way to put things in perspective and feel understood.  Talking to a family member, loved one or trusted friend can be a tremendous support.  Talking therapies can offer professional support to help understand and manage our emotions and behaviours.[4]

Dr Elena Touroni, Consultant Psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic said: “Students who struggle with stress tend to fall into two coping strategy camps: those with unrelenting standards who push too hard at the expense of having fun, and those who become completely disengaged academically and invest too heavily in the social side.

“For the first group, practising self-care and making time to do things that top up their energy bank is really important so they don’t risk burning out, whereas the second group need to put their energy into sticking to commitments. Ultimately, when it comes to managing stress, it’s all about finding balance.”

Aidan Moloney at ULaw adds: “Our ultimate aim is to ensure that every student gets the most out of university, both academically and personally. However, we of course recognise that dealing with stress is something that many students will struggle with.

“Students should never feel like stress is something they have to deal with alone, and we hope that these tips will ensure that every student knows what steps they can take to minimise stress whilst maximising enjoyment during their time at university.”


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