Being at university may be one of the most stressful experiences of your life to date. Work has a tendency of piling up, you have to live independently, you feel pressured to be having the best years of your life, and you’re told to be worried about job prospects and the debt you’ll leave university with.
How much stress is too much stress?
Now don’t get me wrong, stress is not all bad. In small doses it can be the kick you need to work to a deadline or cram the night before an exam. Some people find that their best work comes when they’re under pressure. But how much stress is too much stress?
Over a long period of time, low levels of stress can build up and leave the body exhausted – both mentally and physically. I have spent countless nights lying on my bed worrying about all the work there is to do, to the point where I could neither sleep nor think clearly. Time off became time to worry about work and time in the library was spent staring at a computer screen, too exhausted to do anything at all. Stress can motivate you, but it can also immobilise you.
There are some clear indicators that can help you realise when your good stress might be turning to bad stress:
- skipping university
- change in sleeping habits
- change in eating habits
- difficulty concentrating
- physical symptoms such as stomach problems and headaches
These are only some of the signs that your stress might be getting too much and I’m sure everyone has experienced at least one of these symptoms during their academic lives.
There are many ways to stop stress becoming overwhelming. During my exam period, the simple act of making lists was really helpful for me. By organising my deadlines and what I had to do for each one, I stopped allowing my problems to escalate in my mind. Managing my work kept it all in perspective. I felt pressure to get my check-list done, but seeing all my tasks there in front of me stopped my brain from panicking.
Another thing that helped me was asking for help. At first, I was too embarrassed to admit I wasn’t coping but then I realised, "Hey! I’m paying £9000 a year for this education." We have every right to go to our university for help. Whether it is your tutor for academic advice or the student counselling service for emotional support – their job is to help you. Sitting alone in a library for days on end working on the same problem only makes it worse. You can save time, and stress, by simply seeking advice.
These are just some of the ways that helped me manage my stress, but there are so many other proven methods available to us. It’s about finding your personal routine that can stop positive stress turning into something that has a negative impact on your wellbeing. Keep stress as your friend and don’t let it become your enemy!
More advice on looking after yourself
For more tips on how you can look after your mental health, have a look at our page on looking after yourself.