Lifestyle and Leisure / mental health

Ways to cope with student stress

By bethany harris, Monday Nov 5, 2018

For most young people, starting university is a stressful time. Whether it be moving away from home for the first time, making new friends, or even just working out how to get through Freshers’ Week without spending your budget for the first term, stresses can easily build up.

In 2013, a survey from the Nightline Association showed that 65 per cent of students had personally experienced stress during their time at university, and a shocking 95 per cent knew someone who had experienced emotional distress.

Whilst these statistics alone are enough to generate a small wave of stress, it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few top tips and stress-relieving remedies, you can say goodbye to your worries and get well on your way to an exciting, stress-free year.

Stress, particularly in the long-term, can throw out the body’s natural balance of hormones, placing strain on the body and decreasing overall health. Evidence suggests that social interaction can restore this natural hormone balance, promoting good health as well as a sense of belonging and self-worth. So, with this in mind, joining a society provides a great opportunity to make friends and learn new skills. Your studies are important, but it’s just as important to spend time with friends, so get a group together and make the most of Bristol’s attractions and green spaces, whether it be for a pub quiz or a trip up to the Suspension Bridge.

With university fees and the cost of living constantly increasing, it’s no wonder that a major cause of student stress is debt. The 2017 International University Lifestyle report stated that 60 per cent of UK students claimed that they save money by avoiding going out with friends. Whilst it is important to prioritise, there’s no need to lose your social life. Budgeting can be difficult, but there are ways to help you stay in control of your finances and even save a little money along the way, such as writing down everything you spend, planning ahead for birthdays and Christmas, collecting change and taking advantage of student discounts.

Stress can take its toll on the body as well as the brain, and can lead to a build up of tension in the muscles resulting in aches and pains. As little as ten minutes of exercise each day can directly increase well-being and reduce both feelings and symptoms of stress, decrease pain and boost the immune system. Activities such as swimming help to forget daily stresses and restore energy and positivity, and committing to a team or working out with a friend can provide huge encouragement and incentive for participation.

Crowded thoughts and information overload from complex lectures or seminars can leave you overwhelmed. Meditation not only focuses your attention on your breathing, allowing disorganised thoughts to be collected, but can allow you to gain a new perspective on a distressing situation, giving you the skills to better manage stressful and negative emotions in the future. Between ten and 20 minutes of meditation a couple of times a week can have huge benefits, and it would also be helpful to find an app to guide you through the process. There’s no harm in experimenting to find out what works best for you, whether it be listening to relaxing music or simply by regulating your breathing.

Whilst these stress-reducing mechanisms are tried and tested, they are not a ‘one size fits all’ fix, as every one of us will have an individual and unique response to stress. The overriding principle is to not dismiss your own response as irrelevant or irrational, and don’t suffer in silence. Make use of the help and support provided by friends, family and your university, and you will get the exciting and rewarding experiences that you deserve.

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