Young people should have everything to be happy about, but as the generation with the least responsibility we actually experience the most stress. A 2013 survey by the Nightline Association found that 65% of students feel stressed.
Students juggle part time jobs with university, worry about assignments and stress about the future and how to make the next step. Trying to manage all these things at once can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
As a student, every spare minute seems to be filled with worrying – you feel like you have to achieve something and make plans for your future. Instead of relaxing in the holidays, you're planning an internship to add to your CV, or working to earn some well-needed extra cash.
If you're not careful, working too hard and worrying too much can lead to "burnout" – when everything seems bleak and you have nothing left to give.
It might not seem like it when you're feeling down, but living a more stress free life is possible. There are some really easy ways to beat stress effectively. Here are some that I have encountered as a student:
1. A varied and healthy diet
Eating fresh ingredients and lots of fruit is really important. Juices filled with vitamin C, such as orange or grapefruit juice, are said to be good for your immune system so can help with stress.
When you're busy and tired it can be tempting just to grab another pizza or ready meal, but cooking from scratch can be therapeutic as well as being healthier.
Doing sport at least once a week is the best way to reduce stress. It helps your body produce endorphins, which make you feel good. Even daily walks of 30 minutes can help reduce stress levels but it's even better to work out intensively. Even if you don't feel like it at the time you will feel the benefits afterwards.
Joining a sports club could also help with stress as the regular contact with other people should help improve your mood.
And why not try yoga? It's a great way to ease your mind and relax your muscles.
It might sound simple, but sitting quietly for 10 minutes a day can really help with stress levels. If you've never tried meditation before, it's worth a go.
Good breathing techniques can put you in a more relaxed state as they send oxygen surging through your bloodstream, helping to calm you down and beat the stress.
4. Take breaks regularly
Short breaks between working can help you switch off. But longer breaks are important too.
How about taking the weekend off to relax? Make time for fun and for yourself even if this means that you have to schedule time away from your work. You'll hopefully come back to your work feeling fresh.
5. Get a pet
It is said that spending time with animals is good for your health. If you pat a dog for a couple of minutes, your body releases hormones that make you feel happy and can decrease the amount of stress in your system.
Most uni halls won't let you keep an animal though, so spending some time with friends or family who have pets is a good option: you get the love without the commitment.
6. Sleep (and sign off Facebook)
Sleep is always the best medicine and some people find that small 20-minute naps can help increase productivity.
As students we tend to spend too much time on social media sites and answering emails, texts and phone calls. Sociability is fun – but too much of it, and too much computer time, can lead to more stress.
Failing to switch off from work because of your electronic gadgets will only make you even more stressed.
7. Quit smoking
Some people say they smoke to relax, but researchers on the European Board for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco suggest that nicotine suppresses the hormone serotonin, which fights stress. Another good reason to quit.
8. Try to see the positive side
If you missed a deadline, try to appreciate what you learned from this mistake: now you know how to plan ahead. Things might seem bad, but if you try, there is usually something positive to be learned.
9. Listen to music
Listening to music can help calm you down and put you in a better frame of mind. If you're feeling stressed, putting on some calming music while you work could really help.
They say that laughter is the best medicine, and it's really true. Laughing out loud increases oxygen and blood flow which automatically reduces stress.
Not taking life too seriously can help everyone live a better and easier life. Make time for yourself, log out of Twitter and take breaks. It's about time that we students accept that we can achieve just as much in life without all the stress.
How do you manage stress? Share your tips in the comments section below
Students are one of the most common victims of stress. Factors such as financial expenses, overcommitment, family expectations, deadlines and workload all induce stress in students. While a mild amount of stress is very useful and acts as a motivation for students, too much stress can interfere with their daily lives.
When built over time, stress can give rise to a host of serious problems such as depression and anxiety. Managing stress in its early stages can help maximize the college/university experience and opportunities for students.
There are three kinds of common stress triggers students experience:
Social stress puts serious peer pressure on students. Dealing with new relationships, balancing academic life with social life, living with or without family members, adjusting to the new environment, all trigger stress in students.
Strict schedules, deadlines, low grades, challenging classes, exams, responsibilities, and poor time management all lead to a buildup of academic stress.
- Daily life.
This stress is associated with issues that are not related to academic or social life. These can include daily commute, part-time job, financial burdens, and so on.
Practical stress management can help students deal with their worries and become more productive, competent and efficient. Here are a few tips for managing stress:
- Manage time.
Proper time management is one of the most effective stress-relieving techniques (Macan et al., 1990). Whether it’s relaxation, work or study, time must be spent wisely. Students must be able to design and stick to a timetable. Choose a relaxing break between work and study, even if it’s just taking out time to breathe.
- Exercise and get some air.
A healthy lifestyle is essential for students, especially at university level. Instead of partying at night and being cooped up at home studying throughout the day, take out time to get some air and exercise. Stress is generally lower in people who maintain a healthy routine.
- Stay positive.
If you keep focusing on the negative aspects of a situation, you will be burdened by mental stress (Thompson & Gaudreau, 2008). Instead, try to look at the glass half full, and stay optimistic through tough times. For example, instead of feeling upset over a bad grade, try to maintain a positive attitude and look at ways to improve the next time.
- Organize your academic life.
Organization is very important in academic life for dealing with stress (Sinha, 2014). By keeping academic notes organized, turning in assignments on time, and keeping track of all deadlines, stress can be reduced to a great extent.
- Stop procrastinating.
The best way to stop procrastinating is to get the most difficult tasks out of the way first. Most people procrastinate because they dread the task they’re putting off. Get rid of the dreaded deed, and you’re good to go.
- Take one step at a time.
Don’t put too many eggs in one basket. Instead of feeling overwhelmed about all the deadlines, it’s best to make a list and sort them out one by one. This helps you to be more efficient and productive with your time.
- Spend time with friends.
A cup of coffee with family or friends is all you need to bring your stress levels back to normal. Stress can also get worse if a person feels lonely. By letting out all your thoughts to someone you trust, you immediately feel a lot better.
- Water therapy.
Water therapies are effective for reducing stress and relaxing the body (Lewis & Webster, 2014). By drinking lots of water and treating yourself to hot baths, you can help your body relax. By adding aromatic oils in your bath, you can double your relaxation effect and improve your academic performance.
- Do something you love.
If you feel extremely stressed out, take a break and do something you love. Whether it is painting or listening to music, doing something you enjoy can cheer up your mood and distract you from a stressor.
A general rule of thumb is to moderate your workload and avoid taking on too much. Following the tips above can ensure you find and maintain a good balance in your academic life. If normal management tips do not help, seek advice from your university’s student support services or other professionals.
Lewis, J. & Webster, A. (2014). Sort Your Brain Out: Boost Your Performance, Manage Stress and Achieve More. Capstone.
Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L. & Phillips, A. P. (1990). College Students’ Time Management: Correlations With Academic Performance and Stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), pp. 760-768.
Sinha, A. (2014). Stress vs Academic Performance. SCMS Journal of Indian Management, 11(4), p. 46.
Thompson, A. & Gaudreau, P. (2008). From Optimism and Pessimism to Coping: The Mediating Role of Academic Motivation. International Journal of Stress Management, 15(3), pp. 269-288.
Stressed student photo available from Shutterstock