Stress is something that many university students are familiar with, every one of us experience stress at one point or another. It occurs when the demands on us exceed our ability to cope. Stress can be caused by many things – the most obvious for university students are examinations and assignment deadlines, work, problems with friendships and relationships, financial problems, perfectionism and balancing studying and life. However, positive events such as a new relationship, and starting a new university year can also cause stress.
1) Identify your stressors, and see if there are some things within your control to manage better. Some things will be beyond your control, for example if you work a job that is based on working towards deadlines then you can’t change this without changing jobs. But perhaps you can control some aspects, such as scheduling to have at least a short lunch break each day, or to go to bed earlier so that you have more energy to cope with the daytime.
2) Build regular exercise into your life – as well as being part of a healthy , balanced lifestyle and giving you more energy, many people find that working out at the gym or playing sport helps them to unwind.
3) Make sure that you eat and sleep well.
4) Take time out for family, friends and recreational activities. Most of us know that this is important but we do not all do it. You can set aside one evening a week where you meet up with friends or enjoy a hobby, or set aside one day of the weekend for relaxing at home.
5) Problem-solving techniques can be a useful way of clarifying the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, and then choosing one to put into action after listing the pros and cons of each option.
6) Learn calming techniques such as controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to train your mind and body to become more relaxed. These techniques require practice but can be helpful with regular use.
7) You may wish to speak to a professional about assertiveness training and communication skills which can help you to deal with challenging situations more effectively, thereby reducing stress. See the handout Assertive Communication.
8) Last but definitely not least, consider whether there is negative thinking which is contributing to your stress. Negative thinking can make us worry more than is necessary, increasing stress, and generally does not motivate us to take positive actions.