5 ways to manage stress

Jiscon 22 February 2021
stressed with post-it notes

University can be challenging even for the most relaxed students, but there are things you can do to keep the worry at bay.

Whether you're a current undergraduate or an A-level student hoping to go to university in the foreseeable future, if you're worried about the current Covid-19 situation, here’s some advice on coronavirus and your wellbeing from the mental health charity, Mind.

What causes stress?

Remember, stress is normal

'Stress to some degree is a normal part of life, it is only when the amount we are experiencing exceeds our capacity and resources to manage it that we run into difficulty and find ourselves in a vicious cycle of stress’ - Charlotte Williams, counselling services manager, Birkbeck, University of London.

What can you do to manage stress?

Exercise

This doesn't have to be a gruelling gym session - you simply need to get your heart racing, for example by going for a brisk walk or a bike ride.

'Exercise can be hugely beneficial for the mind as well as the body’ - Glyn Williams, senior wellbeing practitioner, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol.

Mindfulness

A relaxation technique originating in Buddhism, mindfulness is becoming an increasingly popular coping mechanism for those tackling stress or anxiety.

One of the most accessible ways to practice this is through the use of free smartphone apps such as The Mindfulness App, Calm and Headspace.

Do you ever catastrophise? In other words, do you think of the worst outcome of a situation, rather than thinking logically? Mindfulness can help you to take a step back and reassess the situation, reducing stress.

For an introduction to mindfulness, check out this online mindfulness course.

Talk to someone

Isolation can have an extremely negative impact on your happiness. 'Accepting that you may need some help is often the first step to feeling better,' advises Glyn.

Speak to your friends and family - they know you best and care about you the most. What's more, studies suggest that socialising with a friend just once a week can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood as much as therapy or counselling.

'Visit a friend and tell them about the problems you are facing and then tell them about the good things in your life, ask them to help you to gain some perspective,' suggests Charlotte. 'Sharing difficulties can help. However, going over and over them often doesn't and is likely to tire your friend, so ask them to listen first and then help you to get a different angle on things.'

Alternatively, make an appointment with your student wellbeing service. They'll provide a listening ear and can signpost you to specialist services who can offer specific support if needed. While wellbeing services don't provide counselling support, most universities offer free counselling and support groups. Sessions tackle wide-ranging themes, from surviving freshers' week to coping with post-Christmas exam stress.

Time management

Try creating a written work schedule, breaking your tasks down into manageable chunks and planning accordingly. Divide your work into urgent and non-urgent tasks, and important and unimportant tasks.

Getting enough sleep

Stress can often interrupt your sleeping pattern so try to do everything you can to relax yourself before going to bed. Take a bath to wind down, watch your favourite TV show or sit quietly and read. Avoid screen time as much as possible before bed, so switch off laptops, phones and tablets at least an hour before going to sleep.

'If you study in the same room you sleep in, cover your books and desk with a sheet or a screen,' adds Charlotte.

If you have tried these coping strategies but can't conquer the cycle of stress, Charlotte suggests visiting your GP to check that the symptoms you are experiencing are in fact stress related, and that there are no underlying issues.

For more articles on how to manage your mental wellbeing while studying, click here.

Jiscon 22 February 2021