Student stress: How you can take control of your anxiety

You’re stressed about university. Naturally, you’re wondering whether it’s normal to feel this way and if there’s anything you can do to get back on track.

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To see just how common student stress really is, we looked at the results of the national student survey by NatWest. We also asked an expert for their advice when it comes to tackling stress at university.

Below are some of the most common reasons for student stress:

1. Settling into your first year

You might find university runs at a faster pace than your A Levels – the workload can feel very intense. Constantly feeling like you’re behind can be a cause of major stress.

2. Exam and coursework stress

The countdown to exams and coursework deadlines is on. Whether you take a course that has tests throughout the year, you have some big exams coming up at the end of the term, or you have a hefty amount of coursework to complete, the stress of exams can feel overwhelming.

3. You work hard every day and you still feel behind

Sometimes it feels like all you do is uni work. But, even though you can’t work any harder, you know you can’t afford to do any less. Maybe it also seems like everyone else is finishing their assignments way before you.

4. You need to meet a certain grade to stay on your course

You work hard, but if you if you don’t ‘meet the grade’ you won’t be able to continue next year. This puts added pressure on every essay and exam you do.

5. You’re deep in your overdraft and worried about money

You’re already learning a new subject at degree level but, on top of that, you have to learn how to handle your finances, too.

Student money worries are quite common. According to the results from the Student Living Index, nearly one-fifth (19%) of students rated the stress of managing their finances at an eight out of 10 or higher.

6. You’re so stressed you can’t study

Stress about studying can add up to the point where it stops you doing the one thing you need to do; study. Anxiety can build to the point where you can’t sleep or you burst into tears.

Remember: you’re not alone.

It might feel like you’re alone but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a worrying 43% of students rate the stress of their university degree an eight out of 10 or higher. Even more concerning, below are the percentages of university students rating the stress of their degree at a 10/10:

  1. University of Stirling (18.4%)
  2. University of Cambridge (15.0%)
  3. University of Oxford (13.7%)

Could this be due to the lack of support from their university?

43% of students said they felt less than average support from their university to help manage their finances. Interestingly, Stirling students who were the most stressed felt the least supported by their university as 39.5% felt no support. Over a third of students (38%) said they received no student discounts at all from their university.

What the experts think

Dr Michael Smith, Associate Professor in Psychobiology and Health Psychology at Northumbria University, gave his thoughts on the high figures for student stress.

“I don’t think these figures are all that surprising. Going to university can be a stressful time for a number of reasons. Firstly, for many students, going to university can mean living away for the first time. This can lead to feelings of loneliness because family and friends from home are no longer around to provide the same level of social support as previously.

“The student lifestyle also means that university students tend to have a poorer diet and maintain poorer sleep patterns. Then, of course, there is the stress associated with meeting deadlines and keeping up with university work, while at the same time maintaining a social life and possibly working to help manage a tight budget.”

So, what can you do?

You want to be well organised, enjoy your studies, and have time to enjoy student life. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to take the control back from stress.

Here are Dr Smith’s tips to help you start to turn things around:

  • It’s important to think positively and to talk about any problems before they become major issues, with parents, trusted friends or tutors. Keeping a journal can help to get negative thoughts off your chest, and to focus on positive thoughts.
  • Never underestimate the importance of self-care. Things such as maintaining good dietary habits and establishing a good pattern of sleep are important for maintaining focus and feeling well physically.
  • Good time management, allowing plenty of time to stay on top of coursework and comfortably meet deadlines, while at the same time allowing time for plenty of relaxation and socialising is crucial to reducing levels of stress.
  • Careful budgeting could mean that students can cut down on the number of hours in part-time work, to allow more time for studying and socialising.

It’s important to check in with yourself regularly, to see what’s really going on. Talk to someone – a friend, a counsellor or the Samaritans. Knowing there is always someone out there to support you in taking the next step can really help. You’re not alone in this.

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Written by Becky Banham
Becky is Brand and Social Strategist for Happiful and a writer for Counselling Directory.
Written by Becky Banham
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