Aaah, those golden Uni years. Thinking about it, who wouldn’t want to be a student; young, vibrant, intelligent, the whole wide world at their feet…
If you take a glance at any higher education material, online or in print, you’ll inevitably we confronted with Happy Student Exhibit A; a suspiciously clean, coiffed and coy medic, blonde hair cascading over her shoulder to touch the sliver of perfect thigh exposed by a pristine lab coat.
Read on to meet Happy Student Exhibit B: a painfully bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and beaming historian who was clearly forced to wear glasses to distract from his abdominal muscles (of course they’re visible through his T-shirt) and the blinding whiteness of his teeth – and that’s just in the academic section!
Universities’ ‘social/events’ guides give the reader an insight into an entirely different realm of student aesthetic; it goes without saying that if all young people were made to look and feel the way they appear in higher education publications, a large number of university experiences would turn out to be pretty below par…
Of course, no perceptive institution or marketing strategist would promote university using pictures of grim-faced students, but common depictions of young people in a learning environment tend to ignore the unfortunate yet inevitable consequence of working hard, achieving highly and trying to keep on top of deadlines…STRESS!
With 115,000 students seeking help every year in the UK alone, and purely for stress-induced reasons, the claim we are living in an ‘Anxiety Culture’ is certainly not unfounded.
Given the combination of activities and experiences students are constantly forced to balance, this statistic isn’t really surprising. Between lectures, tutorials, exams, essay-writing, essay-losing, new girlfriends, new boyfriends, new platonic friends, flat-sharing, saving (aka spending), attempted career planning (aka successful freaking out), internship-hunting, shared house grime-busting and, to cap it all off, the reality of being catapulted head-first from borrowing the odd tenner here and there, to deciding whether to use your last five pounds on getting the bus back to your flat in the torrential rain or buying a multi-pack of own brand fish fingers to closely avoid starvation, it’s not all that shocking that today’s students might, occasionally, feel a touch overwhelmed.
While all these activities and experiences are undoubtedly necessary, and, with the exception of shared house grime, enjoyable, their cruel tendency to occur simultaneously can leave students feeling drained, frustrated and with far less self-esteem because they are simply unable to do everything. When such feelings of apathy and heightened awareness of the futility of existence kicks in, it’s vital to have a few stress-banishing tips at the ready so you can kick it right back out again…
1. Identify the cause
Sometimes, it feels like everything is a mess. It doesn’t always take an apocolyptic event to induce heart palpatations and the feeling that everything has spiralled out of control; the cause of worry is not always obvious and may simply be an indication that you are over-tired or attempting to do too much.
Stop. Take a break. Get some fresh air.
Consider what, if anything, has gone wrong, whether your reaction is rational, and what you can do to change the situation – even if the answer is simply catching up on sleep.
2. Accept that it is happening
No matter how tightly you wrap your duvet around your head, how loudly you turn up your music or how many episodes of Friends you watch, your work, washing, relationship drama or accommodation crisis isn’t going to disappear. Ignoring your problems is a tried-and-tested means of making them much worse (and no, it doesn’t have to get worse before it gets better), so why not avoid that possibility altogether by deciding what needs to be done, how you can do it and then tackling the situation head-on.
3. Know you’re not alone
Times of solitude can escalate stress, expanding and mutating it until, ultimately, it blocks out all reason and prevents rational progress. Discussing your problems – whether it’s a specific issue or simply the fact that ‘EVERYTHING IS WRONG’ – is likely to allow you to regain perspective. So, take a break to call a friend, relative or perhaps even a tutor – who you consult is likely to differ according to your issue; parents might be your first port of call when it comes to the problem of your flooded bathroom, whereas a friend might provide a less parental-worry-filled ear into which you can pour details of your relationship trauma or recent escapade. While you may feel like the only person to have encountered this problem, you’re surrounded by a huge student body, a considerable proportion of whom may also be suffering in silence, just like you.
Put the pen down. Close that MacBook Air. Go outside. Or inside, if lifting heavy weights at the gym is more your style. Exercise is scientifically proven to boost endorphins; chemicals that suppress stress hormones and have positive effect on mood. While it may be difficult to convince yourself that leaving the desk, bed or library to make yourself sweat like a camembert will make you feel better. Once you’ve pounded the streets or lifted 120kg (hey, aim high…), your heart will be strengthened, your blood pressure lowered and your energy levels raised. In short, your probloem will seem that little bit more manageable.
Easier to achieve in theory than in practice? Certainly.
As a student, ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ tends to become ‘Eat, Read, Rave, Repeat’, meaning that rest is consigned unequivocally to the bottom of the priority list.
Numerous surveys have linked lack of sleep with irritability, under-performance, reduced concentration and mental issues, suggesting that tackling your life crisis will be infinitely more difficult if you’ve replaced your recommended eight hours with caffeine. It’s easy to believe that there are 24-hours in a day and that each hour can be used in your plan for world domination, and undoubtedly, we have all tried this approach – but it really isn’t sustainable. Just as a runner must rest their muscles in between training sessions, a student must rest their brain to allow it to fire on all cylinders.
Work smarter, not harder.
Image via Shutterstock.