University can be a lot of fun and a really exciting time. But, it can also be one of the most challenging times for young people – especially if you’re in a completely new city or even country to where you grew up. Your time at university will involve exams, deadlines, presentations and planning for the future, so we understand that there’s a lot of pressure and it can become stressful at times. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, read through this guide on how to reduce stress for students.
The impact of stress on students
First of all, it’s important to understand the effect that stress can have on you. A little bit of stress now and then can kick you into action when it comes to getting work done and preparing for exams. Sometimes a bit of time pressure is just what we need. But, prolonged periods of stress can have a detrimental effect on both our physical and mental health. You might notice yourself feeling irritable or find it difficult to enjoy yourself when you would have previously. You might find you’re worried and feeling anxious more frequently than you normally would. Your memory and concentration can struggle in particularly stressful periods, which isn’t ideal for taking in new information and revising for exams. As well as this, stress can affect your sleep which is problematic as a good night’s sleep is one of the things that can help offset stress and anxiety.
This period of your life is an important one, and so you don’t want stress or anxiety getting in the way of your academic performance. There are plenty of things you can do to help prevent stress from affecting you or your studies too much. Here are our top 8 tips on how to reduce stress for students.
8 tips on how to reduce stress for students
Apart from the obvious benefit of getting some exercise (which we’ll talk about next), getting outside can do your mind and body the world of good. Fresh air combined with sunlight feeds your brain and body. Sunlight on your skin and into your eyes (up to a safe amount) is proven to boost your mood. It also helps keep your circadian rhythm on the right track. The more time we spend indoors (which is probably quite a lot for students during the busier periods), the less natural light we are getting. This can affect our sleep, diet and mood. Try getting out and about a little more often if you are going through a hard time. A quick walk in the morning will help reset your circadian rhythm and give you that little boost of vitamin D that will help set your day off on the right path.
Letting off some steam is one of the best stress relievers available to anyone. Regular exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it can help reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling. It can really help you deal with the daily challenges you’re facing by keeping your head clear. It allows your body (and brain) to tire, helping balance out your stress levels and this, too will help with your routine of sleep. We understand that gyms can be expensive, so try going for a run out in the open air or joining an active club or society at university. Joining a sports team will also allow you to meet some new and like-minded people.
Sometimes organising our thoughts can help with feelings of stress. Doing this can help us get our heads around why we might be feeling a certain way. Journaling is proven to help with feelings of overwhelm as we take those negative thoughts from our heads and move them onto the paper in front of us.
Take some you time
There will be times of the academic year when you’ll have less going on than others, but it’s important to set a bit of time aside for yourself all throughout the year. Assignments can pile up, and you might have social or other commitments (like being a member of certain clubs or societies) that can feel more of a chore than they should. If that’s the case, it might be a good idea to keep some time for yourself to do something you enjoy regularly. This might be something as simple as watching a movie and vegging out. Or, you might want to take a regular walk by yourself to catch up on podcasts you enjoy. There might be a friend you don’t get to see very often and you want to set some time aside to enjoy doing something with them. Whatever it is, it’s important to let yourself just enjoy doing something that doesn’t need to be done. Downtime can help give you perspective and you’ll be able to focus more when it comes to getting work done too.
It’s easy to let your diet slip at university as you’re now responsible for feeding yourself. But, a diet made up of fatty and sugary foods won’t help with your stress levels. Too much sugar will lead to bursts of energy which are followed by crashes. Keep a balanced diet with a few fruit and vegetables every day to maintain your energy throughout the day and keep your immune system strong. The last thing you want on top of stress is catching a cold or flu.
Too much caffeine affects anxiety levels, so avoid more than 1 or 2 cups of coffee or energy drinks per day. Too much of it can affect your mood, your digestive system and your sleep. Many students tend to up their caffeine intake when it comes to more stressful times of the year – but this is when you should be focussed on keeping a healthy lifestyle. And don’t forget about keeping yourself
Get enough sleep
We’re all aware that not having enough sleep can affect our mental health. It can be a struggle to get through the day on a bad night’s sleep, never mind dealing with challenging situations or heightened stress levels. Get a good bedtime routine going where you can take the time to relax into the evening. Turn lights down, light a candle, read a book, and maybe have a bath if you have one. We know it can be difficult to stay off social media in the evenings, but getting off our phones as early as possible means we’re giving ourselves the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
Plan out your time
If you have a jam-packed schedule, it’s no surprise you are feeling stressed. Having a lot of deadlines on top of being away from home can be overwhelming. It might seem simple, but by taking some time to gather up all your deadlines and jotting them down, you will feel much more on top of things. It will allow you to plan backwards and plot in manageable chunks of time to get everything done. Seeing the amount of time you have on paper or on-screen means you can allocate your time out to each module or subject. Don’t forget to leave enough time for social activities and relaxing – seeing these in your schedule is reassuring as it’s a reminder that you do have time to fit everything in.
Talk about your stress
And finally, one of the first things recommended for anyone going through a stressful or difficult time is to talk about it with others. So, now is the time to lean on those around you. If you have a good relationship with your flatmates or your coursemates, tell them about how you are doing. They’re in a similar position to you so will be in the best position to listen. If you’re far away from home, do make use of video calls to stay close with your family and friends from back home. Just be careful to not spend too much time with them digitally as you may distance yourself from those around you at uni. If you’d rather speak to a professional about your stress, you can make use of your GP for this. Or, UWS offer a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) service called Silvercloud which is completely free for students and can help with rewiring your brain to help manage your stress levels. There are also charities like the Samaritans, Shout or Mind that offer someone to speak to about how you’re feeling if you’re ever in distress.