Handling stress at university

tired student

What with deadlines and a new-found independence of fending for yourself to contend with, university can be a stressful time. However, you might be facing a serious strain without even realising it.

Student services at the University of Dundee identify some symptoms to look out for:

Physical symptoms include constant tiredness, feeling faint or like you want to be sick, lack of appetite and light, patchy sleep.

Mental symptoms feature patchy or non-existent concentration, a lack of motivation to do work, loss of interest in activities and a feeling that you have lack of control.

If you recognise several of these types of symptoms together, you could be overstressed. Whilst you may think that a recent issue led to you feeling this way, it is typically the combination of several problems over a long period of time which can leave you exhausted. Your resistance to stress also lowers when you are recovering from being ill, so try to take it easy.

Ways to reduce stress

If you are in a stressful situation, you can find yourself in a cycle where you become overtired due a lack of relief from each task. Resting works best if you take yourself away from work and other activities which could be sources of stress, including hard-hitting news programmes.

It is important to also factor in some periods of what the University of Dundee call ‘hours of play’. By looking forward to a designated time for activities and events, you will be able to work more effectively when these 4-6 hours of play a week are a regular part of your schedule.

Try setting realistic targets, whether it is working for an hour straight with no Facebook interruptions or factoring in a short walk to break up your library stint. Most importantly, step back from your work and have a good look.

Sort out your options and set yourself some fresh goals which you have a better chance of working towards.

Journalism student Christina said: “Sleep rather than stay up writing essays! You wake up with a clearer mind and everything seems a bit easier.”

Psychology student Joanna also suggests getting to grips with life on campus early.

“I could have done with a compulsory library etiquette lesson at the start of first year because I had no clue what I was doing upon arrival until sometime towards Christmas!”

Don’t forget that we students are all in this together…

Tips from university health professionals

University of Glasgow: It is very common for students, especially first year students, to experience homesickness, anxiety and stress as they adapt to University life.”

“Confidentiality is absolute, and we would encourage any students who may be experiencing issues to contact and talk to us so that we can make their time at University a very happy, fulfilling and rewarding experience.”

The University of Glasgow offers both structured appointment and drop-in sessions, with short courses available to help students with any problems that they may be facing.

Claire O’Donnell, a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist at Glasgow Caledonian University, also suggests setting up study groups or joining a club or society as ways to get involved in student life.

Glasgow Caledonian University:  “For many students the transition from school or college into university will coincide with their first experiences of living away from home. For other students the decision to come to university may follow a long break away from academic study.  It is only natural that the decision to come to university will impact of students in various ways.”

“Your friends and family can be an important source of support for you while you are at university. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed with university work, the chances are that there are others in your class who may be feeling the same way.”

Most universities have counselling services where students can arrange to meet with a counsellor for a series of one to one appointments. Students may go to counselling to work through their difficulties, understand themselves better and find better ways of coping in their academic or personal lives.”

Remember that a problem shared is a problem halved. It may not write the essay for you, but talking it out will do more good than keeping it all in.

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