University & Stress; Part one

Attending university is a big thing in someones life, and rightfully so. Attending a school which charges you a price in the thousands, and having to worry about the results you get after paying so much money is quite stressful for anyone, especially those from a working class background.

With the increase of tuition fees throughout countries, and plans to tighten rules on courses and to make lecturers mark more harshly. As well as quite high entrance grades to get in, many students in countries throughout the world are finding it easier to deny themselves the chance to go to university – they dismiss it as impossible for everyone except a select few.

That isn’t true.

Everyone learns differently, everyone prefers different subjects, and some get better results from different exam processes. For example, exams in a hall are something I am terrible at. I get too distracted and can’t think or focus. The pressure is quite overwhelming and I find more interest on the marks on the table than providing the answers to the exam. Coursework, or mini tests are something I’m far better at. To provide practical exams – I am better at writing a block of code on a computer and making an application in a lab room, with timed conditions, than I am at sitting in an examination hall, where I have been made to write blocks of code on a piece of paper. It’s the same thing in regards to essays also.

However, those are just points and examples of things which happen at university. So far the focus has been negative, but I actually have quite a lot of positive points (I will elaborate later). The focus, at the moment, is the stress, coping with it, and things that you or the university can do to make your life a little easier (The latter will be in Part Two).

The Stress:

I enjoy university quite a lot. I like the experience of it, and I love learning (especially in my course, computers are just so fascinating!) University gives you the chance to grow your knowledge of the course you love – to deepen the knowledge and to explore new things, new realms of possibilities that you never quite imagined before. It also gives you the chance to grow as a person, to make new friends, to try new things and to take a glimpse of adult life.

In my university, I have a lot of laughs with a number of lecturers. I have one that likes to steal my crisps during labs, and I have another that loves to come and talk about the media (Movies, TV shows, music). Many of my other lecturers like to get a laugh out of you by teasing your friends and it is quite a positive experience. (Although, I know a few others in different courses and universities who don’t have the same experience. It depends on who you get, really.)

Even with all of these positives, there’s no point denying that university can be stressful.

During my years (and I still have a few left) of university, I did get slightly more ill. It was at the end of my first year of university that I broke down.

I had lost so much weight that I had gone slightly under my recommend BMI (Body Mass Index). I had already lost a few stone during my A Levels, although the stress I experienced at uni put my down a few more. My insides hurt constantly and every time I stood, I thought I was going to collapse.

I didn’t want to get out of bed, I was (Still am) always at least ten minutes late, ill prepared, and my appetite was so poor that I struggled to finish kids meals. When anything went wrong, or my code didn’t work, I felt so miserable and so much like a failure that I just wanted to throw in the towel and disappear from the face of the earth. Another impact was my friendships, I lost all confidence in friendships and didn’t talk to my own friends because just breathing was an effort, nevermind talking.

Add on the OCD and I was at the end of my wits. I left it too late to focus on stress in uni, because I didn’t realise I was stressed. I didn’t see myself get sicker, I didn’t monitor it. It just happened and I didn’t realise I needed help until I found days where I just dreaded the next morning.

It was during one of the days in which I realised that I needed help. It’s not the full details, but  I will get to those in the future.

I never noticed how stressed I was, or how much I was suffering, and with a condition, such as OCD, things seem to be amplified. So how do you recognise stress when you’re at school, or university?

The following indicators are examples taken from the NHS website (1):

”For most students, these changes are exciting and challenging but, for some, they feel overwhelming and can affect their health.

The first signs of stress are:

Too much stress can lead to physical and psychological problems, such as:

  • anxiety (feelings ranging from uneasiness to severe and paralysing panic)
  • dry mouth
  • churning stomach
  • palpitations (pounding heart)
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • depression” (1)

Other factors might also include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Headaches
  • Poor socialisation/Wanting to socialise but not having the energy
  • Feeling down, or feeling nothing at all
  • Random panic attacks
  • Inability to focus
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling horrid about oneself
  • Weight gain
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts/feeling overwhelmed

If you feel like you suffer from stress, with symptoms above or symptoms which have not been mentioned, speak to a lecturer, as well as your doctor. Stress is a medical condition and must be seen to before it blows into a bigger psychological condition. If you also suffer from a pre-exisitng mental illness, or any other form of medical condition, you are more likely to suffer from stress than others without any medical conditions.

Part Two will lead into coping with stress and tips on how to lessen the stress which you endure during institutions of study (Or in general).

References:

  1. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/studenthealth/Pages/Copingwithstress.aspx
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