Managing stress at uni Managing stress at uni

Managing stress at uni

Kooth

Managing stress at uni

28 March 2024

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by aparto student

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aparto student

University can be an exciting chapter filled with new experiences, challenges, and opportunities for both personal and academic growth. However, it can also be a time of increased pressure and stress. Recognising and managing stress at university is crucial for maintaining our wellbeing. This article explores stress and students’ perspectives on how to manage it. 

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s natural response to challenging or dangerous situations. When we get stressed, our bodies release hormones (such as adrenaline) that prepare us for a fight, flight, or freeze response. The ‘fight’ response prepares our body for confrontation, as it increases our heart rate and heightens alertness. The ‘flight’ response prepares us to get away by directing our energy towards movement and increased sensory perception. And our ‘freeze’ response makes us pause, giving us time to assess a situation before acting. 

However, sometimes, our bodies can’t tell the difference between something dangerous, such as an oncoming car when we’re crossing the road, and something that won’t put us in physical danger, like a deadline for an assignment. And so they both trigger our stress response.

How to cope with stress

Below are some tips from current and former students about how they recognise and manage stress at uni.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

How Zavia managed stress around deadlines:

“When I had a deadline coming up - especially one where I’d left things until the last minute - I’d get really stressed. In my first year, I’d stay up all night in the week leading up to submitting an essay, using coffee and energy drinks to stay awake. I didn’t really feel it in that week, but in the following weeks, I would feel tired, groggy, and not have the energy to do much. From my second year, I tried to split tasks into small parts and set myself mini-deadlines. This stopped me from leaving things until the last minute and reduced my stress.”

Student working on an essay in a park

How Sajra’s friends kept her from isolating when stressed:

“I have a habit of withdrawing into myself when I get stressed. I see other people around me going out and having fun and sometimes think I’m the only one feeling this way. I can spend a lot of my time studying and neglect things like sleeping, eating, and socialising. I find talking about how I’m feeling can really help. I’ve told my friends that when I get overwhelmed, I don’t know how to talk about it or get involved with the things they are doing. Now they tend to come check on me if I’m quiet and encourage me to get out of the house and do something not related to my uni work.”

Students chatting in the park

How Matthew learned to take a moment to step back:

“Sometimes I just need to put some distance between myself and what’s causing me stress. When I’m trying to complete an assignment and find myself just staring at it, I go and do something else. Whether that’s going for a drive, watching TV, or going out with my mates, I find it helps just to forget about it for a few hours. It doesn’t always make my stress go away, but it stops it from getting worse.”

Students watching TV

How Ella learned to recognise her stress:

“I know I’m feeling stressed when I start to get a stomach ache. I clench my stomach, hunch my shoulders, and generally feel quite tense in my body. I also find it hard to relax, and it takes me ages to get to sleep. I find mindfulness techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or a body scan* can help me recognise where the tension is in my body and release it.”

*Progressive muscle relaxation is a stress-relieving technique that involves tightening and relaxing muscle groups, one at a time, in a specific pattern. A body scan is a mindfulness technique that involves bringing focus to different parts of the body.

Student relaxing at a gym

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Recognising and managing stress at university is an important skill that supports our overall wellbeing. By learning to recognise when we feel stressed and using positive coping mechanisms, we can better navigate the challenges of university life. 

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