New people, demanding subjects, deadlines, social requests, part-time work and volunteering can all make university stressful. Maintaining your physical health is proven to help alleviate and manage stress.
Here are some tips to help you think proactively about managing stress.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle whilst at university can be difficult. There will always be a stressful coursework deadline, a sleep depriving night out, or you might simply be finding the whole university experience overwhelming.
Whether you feel the need to do well academically, be sociable or look like you are coping well, you may be feeling some form of pressure. Remember it’s ok that you feel this way. Not everyone is honest about how they feel behind closed doors. What’s important is that you are honest with yourself, and you learn to recognise the signs in yourself.
Think about developing coping mechanisms that suit you – what works for someone people doesn’t work for others. For example, if you are more introverted, saying no to social invitations will be critical. If you need time to revise and don’t enjoy last minute cramming for exams, remember to build in extra time for revision. Almost everyone feels the pressure during exam time.
Plan and organise yourself – Time management and staying on top of your workload by using a diary whether it’s in paper or electronic form, will ensure you are prepared well in advance of any approaching deadlines and commitments. Some people do well with an electronic calendar for day-to-day activities and a large wall planner for deadlines across the months/term. If you are visual learner, the planner can be something you continually add to. Take time every week to plan ahead and prepare yourself for what is coming…
Avoid taking on too much – Avoid overloading your schedule with social commitments, don’t be tempted to take on extra shifts if you are doing a part-time job in hospitality or take on additional work at your club/society if it means your mental health will suffer. Remember, saying no to one thing, is saying yes to something else, that ‘yes’ being your mental health and wellbeing.
Make time to relax – When life gets busy, you need to get away from your desk and have some down time. Go for a walk outdoors to get some fresh air, speak to your friends, read your favourite book – finding some ‘you’ time will do you the world of good.
Physical and mental health are closely linked
Eat a healthy diet – A balanced and nutritious diet is essential to help you feel good and think clearly/maintain concentration. It’s also great to drink lots of water too. Don’t chose exam time to start a new rigid diet and be aware that other people may have unhealthy eating habits. Alcohol is known to disrupt sleep and studying on a hangover for most people is not productive. Keep the socializing to the weekend or post deadlines.
Good sleep – When you’re tired, you can over-think and your worries can become drastically exaggerated. Try to stick to a regular sleep routine, a bath, read a book, a bedtime schedule will really help set you up for the day ahead. Limit phone exposure prior to bedtime. If you have problems sleeping generally, it will be especially important to practice good sleep hygiene ahead of deadlines and exams.
Exercise regularly – Staying active can really help with your mental health and sense of well-being. Whether its lifting weights at the gym, yoga, or team sports available on campus, exercise will really help you switch off from your studies and help bump up the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. Exercise aids sleep and motivates people to eat more healthily!
Spending time with like-minded people – it’s great to spend time with others who share the same attitude to ‘health and wellbeing’. In social situations, don’t succumb to peer pressure, everyone is different, some people can manage numerous late nights, whilst others not so much. Learn what your limitations are and put your mental health first.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and can’t manage your stresses on your your own, ask for help, speak to your closest friends or family, or seek help on campus. Talking challenges through with someone else might help. See below further resources to connect with.
Remember, managing stress is life skill, this is something you will repeatedly face through life, so it’s worth giving this some effort and focus.