Student life is not without its challenges or emotional pressure from study goals to money problems to meeting new people to living independently, all of this can take a toll on your mental health and academic performance.
So, how can you deal with stress and anxiety whilst in university? What are the symptoms of stress? Stick with us and we’ll answer all your questions in our helpful guide.
Symptoms Of Stress
Stress in students at UK universities is common with studies showing that almost half (45 percent) are stressed out by their course.
You’ve probably faced an increase in academic stress levels whilst studying for your a-levels, its a natural feeling and is our body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure.
Small amounts of stress hormones can push you to work hard, however, if you’re feeling very stressed or you feel that you are unable to manage it, then this can lead to you being burnout and facing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Which in turn, will impact your academic performance in a negative way.
Don’t worry we’re here to help you, with the mental and physical symptoms to look out for that suggest you may be feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, you might be going through it without even recognising the signs.
- having sleep problems
- finding it hard to concentrate
- biting your nails, picking your skin or grinding your teeth
- snapping at people or losing your temper
- feeling short of breath or breathing very fast
- little or no motivation
- feeling overwhelmed
- eating less or more than usual
- muscle tension
- feeling constantly on edge or anxious
- unable to enjoy yourself or isolating yourself
- feeling fatigued
- suffering from panic attacks
- suffering with headaches
- drinking more alcohol than usual or being reckless
It’s likely you will have experienced a few of these symptoms yourself whether its over a short period of time or a longer period.
The physical, emotional and psychological signs of stress can prevent themselves differently in different people, so the way you respond to it may be different to the way your friends respond.
Our ability to cope with stressful situations can also vary due to our genetics, early life events, personality and circumstances.
It’s important to try and recognise symptoms of stress to help take steps to improve your well-being and stay healthy whilst at university. When you are able to recognise when you’re feeling very stressed out, you’ll be able to take charge and manage the way you’re feeling.
Carry on reading to find out how you can manage stress and anxiety as a student.
How To Manage Stress & Anxiety
Taking control of the way you’re feeling can be difficult but there are steps to relieving stress and anxiety whilst at university. Even if you haven’t started university yet, it can be useful to understand strategies to make use of during stressful times.
The last thing you want to do is make problems worse if your well-being is impacting your everyday life and academic performance. So, let’s help you out and discuss ways you can reduce stress.
1. Confront Your Feelings
Try to identify the main reasons or triggers for your heightened stress and anxiety levels whilst at university. Is it because of your increased workload? Are your flatmates bothering you? Are you worrying about a lack of money? Whatever it is, confront the way you’re feeling, you could do this by keeping a diary and tracking the way you’re feeling.
It can be tempting to just run away from whats making us feel stressed, but you should try to confront your emotions.
Such as, you may be feeling under pressure at uni so you procrastinate and stay in bed and miss lectures, however, avoidance is not a good stress response. The best thing to do would be to speak to your lecturer about the tasks you’re struggling with and get some extra help.
Coming to terms with the way you’re feeling and pin pointing your stressors is the first step to taking control of your emotions because you can then find a solution to the problem!
2. Reach Out To Friends Or Family
Confiding in other people can be a great way to relieve stress and help you put your problems into perspective. You’ll feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders when you speak up about whats bothering you.
If you’ve just started uni then you may struggle to open up to your new friends about the way you’re feeling, but they could be feeling the same way too. It’s important to remember you’re not alone with the way you’re feeling.
Make sure you talk to your support network whether its your family or friends at uni or at home, they will be able to offer you support and advice with managing stress and not to mention, provide you some comfort!
3. Look After Yourself
Looking after yourself and practicing self-care is the key to stress management. Although it can prove to be difficult to eat well, exercise, get a good night’s sleep and practice good hygiene when you’re feeling overwhelmed as a student, these things will improve your mood and lower stress.
It can be common to establish unhealthy coping mechanisms when you’re feeling stressed or anxious like drinking more alcohol or caffeine than you would normally, however, this will only make your feelings worse in the long run.
So instead, do things that make you feel better physically and emotionally so that you can cope with stress in healthy ways.
Establish an exercise routine and get some fresh air even if its just going on one or two walks a day. Eat a well-balanced diet to support a healthy immune system and provide more energy to deal with stressful situations. Get a quality sleeping pattern by sleeping for 8 hours a night to reduce your stress and improve your mood.
You need to take time for yourself to improve your ability to cope with high stress levels and fingers crossed, eliminate them!
4. Do Things You Enjoy
It’s important to take mental and physical breaks if you’re feeling stressed. We know it can feel impossible sometimes to fit in time to do things you enjoy especially during exam season or busy periods of uni life.
However, you still need to make time to do things that make you happy, even if its listening to music or playing a game for half an hour, whatever it is, a great stress relief is doing something everyday that makes you feel good and distracts you!
You’ll be able to get your mind off anything that is going on after you’ve done something to increase your dopamine levels, an then you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand with lowered stress levels.
5. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Other strategies for how to deal with stress include relaxation techniques. When you have heightened stress hormone levels you may experience physical symptoms like muscle tension.
A great way to deal with this is to practice yoga, spend time meditating, massage your body, exercise to stretch the muscles or get a warm shower in your student house. By doing this you’ll help relive any stress related pain you may be facing.
Practicing breathing exercises are also a great way to help relax your body and mind, you’ll benefit the most if you add a calming technique like the one below from the NHS to your daily life.
- Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
- Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
- Then let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
- Keep doing this for at least 5 minutes.
6. Take It Easy
You can’t control everything going on in your life and its important to remember what we mentioned earlier, stress is normal and you’re not alone in the way you’re feeling. Try to combat negative thoughts that you’re having but don’t beat yourself up about the way you’re feeling.
You might be feeling super stressed about an upcoming assignment or exam whereas your peers feel fine, but don’t worry, it’s important to take it easy and be kind to yourself. Also, don’t compare yourself to other people, we all handle things differently!
Put things into perspective, yes studying for your degree is important, but in the grand scheme of things, its more important to focus on your mental health.
So, take it easy and establish a good work life balance. A good way to do this is to set up a plan of when you’re going to study and organise your tasks day by day, so you’re not swapped with things to do in a short space of time.
7. Seek Out Professional Support
If you’re really struggling with stress management at university then its important to find resources on campus or speak to your GP about the way you’re feeling. You may be experiencing chronic stress if it’s constant and persists over a long period of time.
Self help techniques can only do so much, but don’t worry, you don’t have to face stress alone, talk to a professional whether its going to your university’s student services or making an appointment with your doctors.
There are tons of different types of support that may be available to you while at university so reach out and speak to people. It’s okay to need a helping hand!
Similarly, Student Minds offer a variety of resources on dealing with the different challenges that university life can bring.
To conclude our blog, university life can be stressful, there really is no denying that. However, we hope these 7 tips have helped you to understand the symptoms of stress, things you can do to relieve it and how to combat negative feelings to succeed whilst you’re a student.
We wish you all the best with the next academic year!
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