Many people say that university was among the best days of their lives but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its problems. Prospects has some advice on how to cope with stress when things just get too much for you.
Sarah Worley, a counsellor at Cardiff University highlights some of the stresses that students face:
'International students also have the additional stress of a new culture to adjust to, with English as their second language, often with high expectations and a pressure to succeed from family back home.'
One way of coping is through using the Thought Action Body cycle, taken from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which involves taking each problem in turn and looking at how stress affects them. The sessions focus on teaching students how they can challenge their unhelpful thinking that exacerbates stress, change actions that increase stressful thoughts/feelings and learn to relax their bodies.
You will also find that there will be various workshops run by your university ranging from one off sessions to weeks relating to specific times in the academic calendar. For example Cardiff University ran a homesickness week of workshops called ‘Feeling like a Fish Out of Water’ and at exam time they run a workshop week called ‘Stress Busters’ offering tips and advice.
'These workshops are a mix of lecture style ones that impart useful information to help students understand a topic. We also equip them with new skills for dealing with it, in workshops such as anger management, perfectionism, food and mood, and how to get a better night’s sleep. There are more experiential style ones that give the students an opportunity to experience and practice new skills, including the relaxation and mindfulness workshops.'Sarah Worley
If you are feeling stressed Sarah recommends that you contact your university counselling service and the Health Centre if the stress is leading to medical problems such as migraines. Naturally if some of the causes of the stress are practical then there are a wide range of services available through the Student Support Centre to help students address their problems including various financial support packages, advice and support for international students, housing and welfare advice, and disability and dyslexia support services.
It’s important to point out that you’re not the only one who’s worrying about their dissertation or the exams. Everyone gets stressed but what you need to do is be able to recognise when it’s getting too much and take a break.
One of the best things to do is talk to someone as they can often see things from a different point of view. Many universities have some kind of counselling service which can be really helpful. For instance Sheffield University has a counselling service and this offers a ‘Skills for life’ programme which includes sessions on stress management. Students can also make an appointment at the advice centre in the union, or call Nightline for a confidential listening service.
You’re in the library most of the day which is great for meeting those all important deadlines but this means you haven’t seen your kitchen and eaten a proper meal in weeks - not good. Not eating the right things will make your body slow down, making you feel tired and making even the smallest of problems seem more serious than they actually are. So keep your diet balanced and try to do some form of exercise each day, even the brisk walk to lectures should be enough to use up the adrenaline caused by the worry and stress of exams.
Burning the candle at both ends by being out until 3am and then up for lectures that start at 9am will probably make you burn out pretty quickly, so make sure you are getting a decent night’s sleep. That’s not to say you should never go out again as going out the odd night is another important factor to forgetting any stresses. As a general rule, eight hours a night should leave you feeling refreshed and prepared for lectures and exams.
If you know something is going to stress you out then identifying this early and working out ways to cope with it will calm you down and stop the situation from escalating. So if it’s a presentation that is stressing you out then try rehearsing it in front of family or friends which will hopefully boost your confidence.