Article written by Imaan Fatima, University of Strathclyde Scots and English LLB Student.
University is a fun and exciting time for many of us, but it can also be a stressful experience. Coursework deadlines, exam season, financial problems, and career goals can all play on your mind. Although stress is a normal part of everyday life and not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing, being in a state of stress for long periods of time can be detrimental to our health. It’s crucial to find ways of managing student stress and minimising stress-related problems. Successful coping mechanisms will differ for everyone, so it’s a good idea to try a range of strategies until you find one that works for you.
Being in control of our thoughts increases our ability to deal more effectively with stress. Try using positive affirmations to change your mindset and eliminate negative thinking.
Mindfulness is another popular relaxation technique for tackling stress, often practised through deep breathing or guided meditation. Taking time out to focus your mind on something relaxing and positive will prevent you becoming stressed and concentrating on the problems you’re facing.
Sleep is a vital part of obtaining good wellbeing. Poor sleep can lead to anxiety and depression. Your mind is not functioning optimally because it’s unable to consolidate and process information. When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it’s important to have a bedroom that’s conducive to sleep: quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. You won’t fall asleep if your mind is racing. Do whatever makes you relax at the end of the day, whether it’s listening to music, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.
Maintaining a balanced diet boosts your body’s resistance against the effects of stress. When we’re stressed our cortisol levels increase, which often causes us to crave unhealthier food options. To steer these cravings, eat foods which have been proven to have a calming effect on your mind. Cashews, a source of zinc, are linked to decreasing anxiety and depression. Dark chocolate is known to lower blood pressure. Chamomile tea is proven to calm nerves and promote sleep. It’s also crucial to stay hydrated as mild dehydration can increase cortisol levels. Aim to drink between 1.5 and 3.5 litres every day. You can also take CBD tinctures to help.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is through regular exercise, which releases endorphins to relieve your stress levels. Yoga is a popular exercise known for its stress relief benefits. Martial arts are an effective way of releasing tension and energy. Team sports are a great way to exercise and socialise – a double dose of endorphin release. A brisk walk is an easy exercise which most people can fit into a busy schedule, making it a great form of moving meditation.
People often become stressed when they feel they’re constantly rushing around and running out of time to complete tasks. Simple time management techniques could help us stay more organised and feel more relaxed.
In the morning, write a to-do list by scheduling everything you need to do that day and when it needs to be done by. A clear indication of your priorities will allow you to feel calm and collected. Try allocating breaks between each task so they don’t overlap.
Another way to efficiently plan your time is to estimate how much time you need to do something. Choose a few tasks you need to complete over the next week and estimate how long you think each task will take. When working on the task, keep a note of how long you actually spend. If the actual time you spent is above or below 20% of your estimate time, reflect on why this is and adjust your estimates on future tasks accordingly. Repeating this exercise regularly will help to improve your ability to plan and schedule time effectively.
Speaking to people and socialising can help reduce stress. Talking to family or friends about the problems you’re facing and asking for advice can allow you to gain some perspective and look at things from a different angle.
Alternatively, you may want to book an appointment with your student wellbeing service. Most universities will have one and they’ll offer a range of support services. Some may provide mental health assessments, counselling, group therapies, or mindfulness programmes.