University & Stress; Part Two

Part One dealt with identifying stress, especially when you’re a student.

Everyone copes with things differently, everyone has their own methods for dealing with stress. Therefore, not all the same tactics will work for everyone.

There are different ways in learning to cope with it. In order to find the one which best suits you, different options should be tried. You might surprise yourself.

Preventing Stress:

It’s all very well and good to mention how to treat stress, however, like anything medical, one must consider how best to prevent the condition from appearing, or worsening.

  • Be Prepared: In my school, there was always a saying from the teachers in the lead up to exams. ”If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail”. In terms of university, if you fail to prepare for exams by not studying, or by forgetting equipment, you will hinder yourself during the exam or assessment process. What is the point in hoping to pass a programming module exam on ASP.NET if you don’t learn it, or instead learn Java and hope for the best? Or indeed, if you have a history exam on Russia between 1912-1930 and learn about the American civil war instead? Or if you go into an assessment without your pen/laptop (depending on your course)? It’s useless. Prepare for whatever you’re going in to do.
  • Learn small bits over time: Instead of cramming for an exam the week before, why not try learning small sections a month before? Cut it up into small chunks and aim to spend an hour/half an hour a night learning that chunk. Make it into a spider diagram, if you want, and add things over time. Then in the end, you can review it and go over it by reading it every night. It will stick into your head a lot easier if you learn bit-by-bit, instead of just learning a massive block of content.
  • Don’t leave it for the last minute: Study gradually. Set an informal study plan – or decide that you’re going to revise what you learnt that day for an hour, a night. Then, closer to the exam, do a few more hours of study and go over everything. I suggest a month before the exam to do this more intense version as it gives you time to spread the learning out. If you start getting a headache when studying, it’s time to stop.
  • Take breaks: Take a break for yourself each night. Also, between studying or work, make a cup of tea and just sit and enjoy the peace or lack of work in that moment. Don’t even think about work, just think about the there and now. Even the taste of the tea if it keeps your mind from focusing on what you need to do. if you’re studying, remember to take ten minute breaks every twenty minutes/half an hour.
  • Learn your study type: Are you a kinestatic learner? A listener? A reader/writer, or a visual learning? Do you learn better by teaching others? I find pretending to lecture to others helps me to remember details, as well as having trigger words. This quiz might help you figure out how you learn best.

Treating stress:

  • You-time: Very much similar to the one above, but this time, set a routine. Every specific time at night, spend an hour meditating/ painting/ reading/ writing etc. Just take a moment and sit down to do the thing you love. Something which helps you unwind.
  • Pamper yourself: You should go to the shops and by yourself a face mask, or even a new shirt. Perhaps a new DVD, a book. Something which makes you feel good and pampered. Just remember not to go overboard!
  • See your friends/family/socialise: We all need a bit of oxytocin, right?Oxytocin is called the ‘cuddle hormone’ because your body releases it when you’re bonding and happy with your company. It releases even more when you’re cuddling. So grab a cat, a dog – even a person. Your friends and family and spend time with them. If you’re a touchy-feely person – then go and have a cuddle. It will make you feel good.
  • Pull yourself back when you feel yourself stressing: The best thing to do is to remove yourself from a stressful situation. If you are feeling stressed due to essays/coursework, pull back from it and take a break. Go for a walk, or find somewhere private and just breathe. Take your mind off it and look around you.
  • Stress pack: I follow a wonderful blog who had the idea of a care pack, so why not have a stress care pack? Make a little bag of things which help you when you’re stressed. Maybe put tea in it? Perhaps get yourself a cool stress ball. Include the things that help you. I recommend something with a comforting scent, whether it be a fruit smelling lip balm, or a something else. Scent is quite an impressive thing and it can actually trigger memories for some. Pick one with a happy or relaxing memory, if you try this.
  • Reward yourself: Every time you achieve something, give yourself a pat on the back. Or perhaps a chocolate bar to boost your serotonin levels. Something which encourages you and makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Talk to your doctor: Whether the doctor is a GP or a psychiatrist, do talk to your doctor about how you feel. They can give better advice than you might find online, they might even keep tabs and check in on your next visit.
  • Don’t struggle alone: Talking is a wonderful medicine, hence why there are so many talking therapies. Talk to a friend or a professional, it will lift a weight off your shoulders. The first step is hard – that being actually opening a conversation. After that, it gets easier.
  • Talk to the university counselor: Most universities will have student support. Talk to student support if you don’t want to talk to your doctor, they will be able to refer you to counselling – even if it’s for something small. This will give you the chance to talk and express. They will also provide advice.
  • Talk to your lecturers: It might seem odd, but lecturers will listen. If you’re feeling stressed, they might be able to help you with the work or explain it better. They might also be able to relate and talk, which would be an added benefit.
  • If you don’t understand the work, ask about it: Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help. There will always be many others in the class which will be asking for help also. It would be better if you asked the lecturer to explain or go over it with you, instead of suffering and stressing in silence. This suffering in silence could cause you to perform poorly at the end of the assessment. The lecturers are there to guide you.
  • Exercise: We have all been informed about the benefits of exercise, this can boost so many chemicals in the brain and offer you a stress relief.
  • Avoid procrastination and remove distractions: It would lessen the stress levels if you just sat down and faced the thing you’re avoiding. I avoided studying for weeks and weeks before an exam. I only made myself feel worse and more stressed out than I had been when I did do gradual studying. Just push yourself to get the work done, then it’s a weight off your shoulders.
  • Get good sleep: Lack of sleep can cause serious stress. I suffer from lack of sleep often and find it stressful to fill a kettle up when I haven’t had much sleep. So what good would it be to face a naturally stressful situation – like work or study, when you’re already subconciously stressed from tiredness? Refer to my post on sleep for other information.
  • Quit any smoking habits: Perhaps don’t do this in the middle of exam season, but on the run up. Smokers tend to get anxiety when they don’t have something to play with, and smoking can cause stress – especially after a person has finished their bud and is craving another. It would be best to avoid smoking, and if you’re a smoker, try and quit over summer, or months before your exams.
  • Laugh, even if it’s fake: My previous post discusses how to make yourself feel confident and discusses self-worth and putting yourself down. Am I enough? Laughter causes a chemical boost in the brain, the endorphin’s. One of the feel good chemicals, therefore – laugh. Even a fake laugh, as it can sometimes turn into a real laugh, will help as a natural stress relief.

The NHS has the following recommendations on treating stress (1):

  • ”Assess exactly what in your life is making you anxious. For example, is it exams, money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you’re under.
  • Try to have a more healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, cut down on alcohol and spend some time socialising as well as working and studying.
  • Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
  • Learn to relax. If you have a panic attack or are in a stressful situation, try to focus on something outside yourself, or switch off by watching TV or chatting to someone.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises may help.
  • Try to resolve personal problems by talking to a friend, tutor or someone in your family.
  • Read about how to cope with the stress of exams.” (1)

What tips do you have for students when they stress? How did you get through university and the stress it gives you? Or stress in general?

Read Part One here: University & Stress; Part One

References:

  1. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/studenthealth/Pages/Copingwithstress.aspx
  2. Image: http://extreme-vidz.com/snowboard/relax
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