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Top tips for beating stress at university

Show that stress who's boss! Source: Unsplash

Aaah, those golden university years. And who wouldn’t want to be a student? Young, vibrant, intelligent, the whole world at their feet…

Scroll through the pages of any university website or rifle through its glossy prospectus and you’ll find yourself confronted with squeaky-clean, perfectly coiffed stock photo students living the education dream. This is the reality, right?

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Err, sorry but not quite!

Unfortunately, these publications give us an insight into an entirely different (and wholly phony) student aesthetic. If we took these perceptions as fact, it goes without saying that most university experiences would wind up to be significantly subpar.

But let’s face it: no marketing strategist would promote a university using pictures of grim-faced people who clearly aren’t having a good time. These depictions ignore one unfortunate yet inevitable consequence of working hard, revising and keeping on top of deadlines…

STRESS!

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Last year, Unihealth – specialists in health and behaviour change content – found that 8 out of 10 UK students suffer from stress and anxiety; a number that is reflected in students around the world.

Between lectures, tutorials, exams, essay writing (and not forgetting essay losing…), new girlfriends, new boyfriends, flat-sharing, budgeting (a.k.a. spending…), future career planning (a.k.a. freaking out) and frantically breathing into paper bag,s how on earth are you meant to find time to study?

Rest assured that these experiences are all just part of the package, and that you are not alone. It can be overwhelming when everything seems to pile up at once, leaving you feeling drained, frustrated, and with far less self esteem than you had at the start of your studies.

Honestly, you will look back on these years and deem them the best of your life, but we understand that doesn’t change the way you’re feeling in the here and now.

Study International is here to help, arming you with foolproof stress-combatting tips to keep the blues at bay.

1. Identify the cause

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Sometimes it can seem like things are spiraling out of control, but it doesn’t always take an apocalyptic event to induce cold sweats and heart palpitations.

Learning how to recognise the causes of stress in your life is the first step to making things better. Remember that the source of worry isn’t always obvious, and this could simply be an indication that you’re overtired or taking on too much.

Take a step back, relax, take some well-earned time for yourself. Consider what, if anything, has gone wrong, whether your reaction is rational and what you can do to make the situation better – even if it’s just catching some z’s.

2. Accept that it is happening

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It doesn’t matter how tight you can roll yourself up in a duvet burrito, how loudly you crank up your music or how many TV episodes you binge, your work, relationship or accommodation drama isn’t going to disappear.

Ignoring your problems is a surefire way of making them worse – and it really doesn’t have to get worse before it gets better!

Avoid that possibility altogether by deciding what needs to be done, uncovering how you can do it and then tackling the situation head on.

3. Know you’re not alone

Loneliness and solitude can escalate stress, blocking out all reason and halting your progression.

Talking about your problems, regardless of whether it’s a simple issue or the fact that ‘EVERYTHING IS WRONG!’ will help you win back some perspective.

Take a break, call a friend, relative or maybe even a tutor. Who you consult is likely to differ according to your issue. While you may feel like the only person to have ever encountered this problem, know you’re surrounded by a huge student body, a considerable portion of whom might also be suffering in silence, like you.

4. Exercise

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Put the pen down! Close that MacBook Air. Go outside. Or inside, if lifting heavy weights at the gym is more your style.

Exercise has been scientifically proven to boost endorphins; chemicals that surpress stress hormones and positively impact mood.

While it may be difficult to pull yourself away from the desk and make yourself sweat like a camembert, it really will make you feel better.

Once you’ve pounded the streets or lifted 120kg (hey, aim high…), your heart will gain strength, your blood pressure will have lowered and your energy levels will have raised. Now you’ll find your problems are so much easier to manage!

5. Sleep

Surprising? Not really!

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Easier to achieve in theory than in practice? We feel ya.

As a student, ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ tends to become more of an ‘Eat, Read, Rave, Repeat’. Time to rest is often pushed to the bottom of your priorities and that’s when you burn out.

Numerous studies have linked lack of sleep to irritability, under-performance, reduced concentration and mental health issues, suggesting that tackling your life problems will be much more difficult if you’ve replaced your recommended eight hours with strong doses of caffeine.

Just as a runner must rest their muscles between training sessions, a student must rest their brain if they are to reach their full potential.

Work smarter, not harder.

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