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Coping with study related stress

Thursday 26 June 2008 Struggling With Study

Being at university can be a great experience, but also a stressful one. 53% of students reported that their stress levels increased since starting university (Student Living Report, 2002).

Common causes of stress include debt and financial worries, exam and coursework pressure, balancing study with other commitments, and relationships. 

Not all stress is bad you know!

Not all stress is bad; in fact a degree of stress is often necessary to motivate us to achieve our goals. This is sometimes referred to as ‘eustress’, literally good or positive stress.

However, when a situation feels overwhelming or beyond your control, the resulting ‘distress’ (bad stress) can be damaging to your mental and physical health.

Symptoms of stress

Stress can manifest itself in a whole range of ways, both mental and physical. Physical symptoms can include racing heart, panic attacks, insomnia, changes in appetite, nausea, headaches, and lowered resistance to infections such as colds.  Mental symptoms might be a lack of concentration, absent-mindedness, anxiety and depression.

Dealing with stress

The best way to beat stress is, where possible, to remove its causes. This might mean cutting down on your extra-curricular commitments, or seeking advice from your student welfare officer on dealing with your financial problems.

There is also a section on student finance which you may find helpful.  However, some stressful situations are simply part of life, such as multiple essay deadlines or the break-up of a relationship.

If you’re going through a period of unavoidable stress here are a few tips 

  • If you’re overwhelmed by the pressure of work, break down the things you have to do into manageable tasks and tackle them one at a time
  • Talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling
  • Stick to a healthy diet and get plenty of fresh air and exercise
  • Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with stress, as these can negatively affect your mood as well as your health
  • Don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself – no one is perfect all of the time
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as taking slow, deep breaths. Yoga and meditation are also popular activities for reducing stress.

Could there be an underlying reason for your stress?

We all get stressed from time to time, but if you’re frequently stressed or your levels of stress are very high, there may be an underlying reason such as a medical condition or unresolved feelings about past events.

It can be helpful to talk to a counsellor or a doctor about your experience of stress. Students are fortunate in having access to a free, high quality counselling service, so take do advantage of this if you need to.