Basically, we all get stressed at uni. Stress might be worse during certain periods of your life (exams, assignments, payments due etc) and you might find yourself more stressed than others. The main thing is to not dwell on these factors (which in turn add to stress) but develop good self-awareness skills. By that I mean – know when you are stressed and don’t accept it (I myself am a big culprit for this), work against it. For example, if you have a 4000 word essay, you only have a week to do it and a million other things to sort out whilst the rest of your house/flat are playing music and pre drinking for a big night out – chances are you might be feeling a bit stressed. Don’t sit there at your desk with your stack of books allowing your headache to increase and forcing yourself to keep ‘reading’ (let’s be honest you’re not actually taking anything in) instead, follow the 5 tips I suggest below to de-stress.
No I’m not going all hippy, meditate-your-way-to-tranquility on you! But yoga really is a great de-stresser, if only to get you away from your desk. Yoga is great because you don’t need the same motivation as you do to haul yourself to the gym or to make yourself go on a jog (which sometimes just the thought of can add to stress) and you can do it in the comforts of your room. If you’ve never done it before there’s loads of great videos on youtube to get you started, and in no time you’ll find yourself remembering the stretches on your own. Stretching also actually counters stress, it releases your muscles which are probably tense from all the stress and even more so if you’ve been hunched over a laptop all day. Some movements also massively increase the blood flow to your head which can help to clear the ‘clogged’ feeling you can get when you have too much to think about. After you’ve tried a video, consider investing in a yoga mat on ebay (they retail around £4-£10) – they’re easier to use as they’re non slip (some poses can be a bit slippy on plain carpet) and if you have a mat you feel more like you’re actually doing an activity rather than pulling some funny shapes in the middle of your bedroom.
Organisation always helps you get a grip on things and often puts things into perspective. Lack of organisation is also probably the biggest cause of student stress because it covers everything – from spending (I’ll talk more about that below) to uni work.The most essential thing a student should have is a diary. And no, I don’t mean a Dear Diary (although by all means keep one of them too, some people find writing helps release their stress) – I’m talking about an organiser. A filofax is one of the best organisers you can find, it has room for notes, addresses, dates to fill in events etc. Make sure every time you get invited to something/plan something/make an appointment – it goes in the diary. And you MUST make it your habit to refer to it regularly; look at the next week so mentally you know what you’ve got coming up. It’s one of the worst feelings when you have an essay due and only the day before you realise you have a 3 hour interview for a job that you haven’t prepared for. Know what is happening in your life! Similarly paperchase have started making these genius ‘weekly desk planners’. They’re A4 in size and list the days of the week in 7 small columns. There’s no dates on them so it’s not like an official calendar, you can just tear off the sheets as and when you need one, and actually it works really well for organising work/revision.
So, for maximum organisation definitely invest in a diary – to make notes of all the places you’re meant to be, what times, and where in the next month or so. To help yourself out even more, consider buying a weekly planner or even making your own (it’s not hard to draw up a quick 7 column table) to plan your work. I’ll add a little example of what I mean below. The advantage of having both is that it’s nice that way to separate your social and work life so that your diary isn’t jam packed, mixing the things you want to do (night out with friends) with the things you don’t want to (revision) – de-stress your organisation too! Below is an example of what you might put on your weekly planner, in contrast to your diary which will list things like doctors appointments, interviews, lunch dates, birthday parties etc.
9am – Shower, get ready, breakfast.
10am – 12pm – Essay reading (Books 1 & 2)
12pm – Jog for half an hour
12.30pm – Lunch
1pm – Revise Module 1, Book 2.
This links in to organisation, as essentially to combat financial stress you need financial organisation, but again it’s better to separate the areas of the life so that it doesn’t get jumbled up in your head and create one big daunting problem. Even if money isn’t an issue/problem for you, it’s still vital that you learn how to manage and control your spending and finances. Now, I’m not good at maths at all, but keeping a basic table of finances is not hard and it’s not a bad idea – the key is to keep ahead of yourself because money is something that a lot of students can’t afford to mess up on. At the start of each term (the best time is just before the end of the holidays) make a new finance table. Have one column for ‘balance’, one column for ‘incoming’ and one for ‘outgoing’. If your balance at the start of the term is £500 and you know it has to last you for a month, divide it by four and then you know you have £125 a week. In your table add any expenses that you know you will have or any income you may be receiving, for example if you know in the first week of your first month back you’re going to be buying a summer ball ticket at £40, -£40 in your outgoing column. Similarly, if you’re going to get your pay cheque for last month of £20, add that to the incoming column. If you put all three amounts together: £125 – £40 + £20, that leaves you with £105 for the week that you know you have to spend – it’s your job to keep adding to it with any amounts you’ve spent on food/nights out etc so that you keep on top of it – just 5 minutes every evening to quickly scan your receipts or bank statement to see how much you’ve spent will keep you on top of spending, and you may find that the more conscious you are, the more you save – just because you have £105 to spend for example, doesn’t need you need to spend it in the week you’ve allowed for it!
4. Eat well.
Binge eating always seems like a good idea at the time, a nice donut or creme egg always soothes the pain, right? Well, temporarily maybe, and by that I mean for the whole minute that it lasts in your mouth – after that all its value is lost. Eating badly contributes to weight gain, another major source of stress (no one wants to be stressed and fat) and actually contributes to stress itself as it makes you feel sluggish and lazy.
Instead, a good meal changes everything. You need to be drinking at least 2 litres of water every day – it will help keep your hydrated and will eliminate those groggy headaches that always seem to cloud our heads when we’re most stressed. Similiarly, make sure you’re eating good healthy meals. If you start the day with a healthy bowl of cereal (e.g. branflakes, cornflakes, wetabix), an egg, or some fruit (e.g. a grapefruit or banana) you will feel ready to take on the day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so if you eat a substantial meal to fill you up, you will feel ready for the day – the healthier the better as you won’t get that sluggish bogged down feeling that you get from processed/fatty foods. Continue healthy eating throughout the day – it doesn’t have to be a stressful restriction either, don’t think a measly bowl of raw carrots – just healthy ingredients, maybe a chicken salad or a nice salmon pasta. It often seems easier to just shove a ready meal in the microwave, but loads of healthy meals are unbelievably quick and easy to throw together – bloggers and websites such as @trampstudent also helpfully offer a variety of quick, cheap healthy student recipes to make the whole task a lot easier. Eat clean, feel clean – less stress for you.
5. Rest and Relax
Probably the most important step (after you’ve sorted out your diary, financial planning, cooked yourself a nice healthy meal and stretched out doing some yoga) to de-stressing. Sleep is your number one friend, it helps your brain recover and prepares it for tomorrow so that you can be more productive and efficient. If it’s ridiculously early, say 6pm (maybe too early for bed) still stop everything you’re doing, run a bath or chill on your sofa with a book or magazine just to let yourself wind down, free of distractions. For optimum results, go to bed by 9.30pm – that may sound ridiculous, but you can then aim to wake at 7.30am the next day – you won’t feel tired and you’ll have the whole day ahead of you to deal with any of the things that have been stressing you out – uni work, finances etc and a full day gives you the time to get back on track, thus eliminating your stress.
So those are my top 5! If you have any other suggestions please comment below, I’d be interested to see other peoples responses.