That feeling of stress, of being overwhelmed, is just about guaranteed to happen to us all at some point during our time at university (or in life in general!). There’s inevitable deadlines, sure. But you also might be juggling part-time work, feeling the pressure of potentially being away from home, or perhaps dealing with an existing mental health issue.
Whatever is causing these problems to mount – it may feel like nothing in particular – it’s important not to be ashamed of your feengs. If you’re reading this blog, it perhaps means you’ve taken the important first step in trying to take back control of your stress or seek other people who feel the same.
We should always remind ourselves that our minds and bodies work together as one unit, and therefore certain physical decisions can and do have an effect on our mental wellbeing. I struggle with my mental health and have done for years, but I try and find ways of getting through low times as positively as possible. For me, writing my feelings down like this help a huge amount. Here’s some other things that help me:
Perhaps the last thing you want to do when tackling immense feelings of stress is a workout. But exercise doesn’t have to mean a tight 30 minutes in the gym, anything that gets your heart pumping is good for managing stress levels.
In fact, even going for a walk is a good idea, as it can take you away from a stressful environment and allow you to collect your thoughts. If you’re lucky enough to live near to a park or nice area of countryside, this is the perfect place to just wander for a while.
There are certain things that we may find help us deal with issues in the short term but end up having a compounding effect on our stress if we become too dependent on them. These are often called negative coping mechanisms.
Universities – in this country at least – have a serious drinking culture, so it’s sometimes difficult to work out when the line between drinking to have fun and drinking to help with stress has become blurred. Overall, I guess it’s just always a good idea to listen to your body. You’re the one who knows it best!
The NHS recommends that you cut down on alcohol and avoid lots of caffeine - it may help you to focus but can encourage anxiety if you consume too much of it (coffee always makes me feel wired!). It also occasionally stops me from sleeping well, which I recognise is something that is important to combat stress. Easier said thank done though.
Breaking it down
Stress becomes overwhelming when we feel like we’ve lost control, so anything you can do to bring that control back in a healthy way may help. You might look to make a plan and break down how you’re going to approach your work each day. Writing lists is something that helps me a lot, it’s also good to put them in visible places (such as the fridge or on a mirror).
Talking through your issues with friends and family is also helpful in untangling the causes of stress. Remember, your degree might be the biggest factor, but it’s possibly not the only one.
I’d love to know how you cope with stress within a busy schedule. None of this is easy, and it's all WAY easier said than done. But I guess it's at least good to be aware of what can be contributing to those feelings of being overwhelmed. Drop me a message and let me know some new hints and tips!