Simple ways to tackle stress
Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month?
Ironically, you might have been too stressed to know this, which is understandable. Stress, however, can be a huge burden on your mental and physical health and something you might want to pay attention to.
With the cost of living increasing, exams looming, and trying to make important decisions like, I don’t know, what your future looks like, it’s no surprise that one in 14 of us in the UK feel stressed every single day [CIPHR]. It’s important to recognise the signs of stress before it manifests negatively into your daily activities. Even though they might be small niggles that you can overlook now, you don’t want the signs of stress to grow into a bigger issue.
We’ve pulled information from our student services team and talked to staff and students on the best ways to deal with stress.
Check things off
There is nothing more satisfying than writing a list and slowly checking things off when you’ve completed them.
Yes, that’s right, nothing.
One of the simplest things you can do to combat stress it to be as best prepared as possible. If you feel fully informed, you will be confident in going ahead. At the University of Winchester we offer a checklist to our students before entering exams to make sure they are ready and won’t fall foul of any unexpected occurrences. Whilst the few following examples may not be universally relevant, it might give you some prompts for what to double check yourself:
- Check that none of the exams clash
- Check that you can access the relevant course materials and specific exam details for each exam module
- Check that you know where your exam venues are
- Check for details of exam format and any permitted items
- Plan revision time - check the revision opportunities offered by the Academic Skills team
- Prepare your permitted exam items (general items e.g., pen/pencil/calculator) and any additional items, specific to each exam
- Ensure you have your Student ID
- Check your timetable again to ensure you know the dates and times of your exams
- Plan travel arrangements for the day/days of your exams
Checking these basic but important things off will make you feel well prepared before entering the exam hall and lessen stress from any unexpected last-minute problems.
Have a think about your surroundings. Are they adding to your stress? Could it be calmer? It might be worth considering a different study space, a library or quiet café for example, so that you can focus your attention on one thing and not feel stressed by someone barging into your bedroom or Stranger Things being on too loud downstairs.
One way to improve your surroundings is to listen to calming music which you enjoy. And in fact, listening to songs can have more health benefits than you realise, including:
Reduced cortisol levels
Falling asleep quicker
Reduced feelings of depression
Music can also help during key stressful times such as revising for exams, awaiting results, or preparing for a speech, performance, or audition. We curated a Relaxing on Results Day playlist, which you might want to have a listen to if you’re feeling stressed. Click here to listen.
One task at a time
Prioritising tasks is a highly overlooked skill. To be able to look through the fog of tasks you have, from exam study sessions, to filling out job applications, to booking train tickets for an open day before they’ve all gone... it can all get a bit too much.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of one project or assignment and lose sight of the other things you have to do which might be more pressing until it’s too late. List out all the things that you have going on and include the things that aren’t necessarily academic as well – booking a GP appointment, buying your mum a birthday card because you always forget.
Look at the tasks and prioritise them in terms of deadline and how long they will take to complete. Then, make your way through the list. There are plenty of apps and project management systems that might be useful in organising your tasks in a visual way too.
Re-frame your mind
Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to get you thinking about stress differently. Doing a regular session, even if it’s just ten minutes a day, will help build positive long-lasting changes in the neuronal pathways of your brain.
Re-wiring your mind like this will help with future occasions when you feel overwhelmed, so that your natural reaction is to acknowledge the feeling of stress and let it go rather than investigating it and spiralling into negative thoughts.
Using a set programme if you’re starting out is a great way to get you going. Mindfulness apps are brilliant for having a ready-to-go toolkit in your pocket and a lot of them provide free trials, which is helpful if you want to try a few before you commit. You can also find a lot of meditation videos on YouTube to explore, some involving yoga if that’s something you're interested in. Getting into the habit of meditating every day will help you lower your cortisol levels and deal with stress differently.
There are lots of support options out there for you to make the most of, whether at school, college, or university, from career advice to mental wellbeing. Talking about what you might be struggling with is often the first step to feeling better.
Here at the University of Winchester we offer a range of different support options through our student services teams. Every Faculty has a Student Support and Success Adviser offering support and counselling for whatever is challenging you from an unbiassed experienced professional.
Certain times of the academic year can be more stressful than others, something that the Exam Buster Workshops can really help with, if you ever find you are becoming overwhelmed. Breaking down what can feel like monumental tasks into manageable pieces can make all the difference when it comes to the build up to exams.
Watch our video to find out more about the support we offer here.
Feed the tank
You can now add the University of Winchester to the long list of people including your mum, your teachers, social media influencers, telling you to drink more water. And it’s really annoying that doing just that and drinking what feels like a bathtub of the stuff, does in fact help.
Your body works overtime if you’re dehydrated – it's harder to think, you’ll often get headaches and any semblance of energy will be hard to come by. Making sure you’re well hydrated is an easy way to combat stress so that you can concentrate properly on the task at hand.
Of course, sometimes you need that boost of caffeine for some last-minute revision cramming or to wake you up for a chat with a friend but if you find you’re sensitive to its effects, you might want to monitor how much you have. Reducing caffeine and sugar will stop you having peaks and troughs of energy and help to keep you calm throughout the day.
It’s easy to carry on with everyday life and ignore the signs of not feeling your best. Even if you have some small indicators of stress – lack of concentration, eating too much or too little, increased heart rate, feeling overwhelmed – it's important to try and lessen their impact as much as you can so things don’t escalate.Back to blog