Stress Awareness Day

Issue date: 31 October 2017

Being at University should be a fun, enriching and exciting journey – but it's also a time of transition, change and juggling of priorities. With coursework, assignments, part-time jobs, thinking about the future as well as trying to have a social life and enjoy yourself it can all seem like too much sometimes.

Stress Awareness Day (1 November) is a great time to take stock – use our tips and information to assess and address your stress.

What is stress?

'Stress occurs when the demands upon us are greater than our ability to cope with them,' explains Dr. Paul Blenkiron, an NHS consultant psychiatrist. 'There's a difference between stress and pressure. I may have a busy job where I'm under pressure, but I may be coping and even enjoying it without stress. We perform best with a moderate amount of pressure, not too little. Imagine taking an exam where you were totally relaxed - you wouldn't perform at your best.'

Pressure can be useful

Pressure – or controlled levels of stress - can actually be a useful thing, as we try to achieve things. Pressure, adrenaline and short periods of increased stress can help us achieve our goals.

Stress can be damaging

Stress over a prolonged period is bad for you – it can affect your body, thoughts and feelings, sleep, appetite and behaviour. Read the full list of symptoms. If you can't see an end point for the pressure – such as the end of an exam, or an essay deadline – then your body is in a constant state of 'fight or flight'.

10 tips to manage and reduce stress in your life

1. Get active

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins which lift your mood. It can also help take your mind off everything else for a while and help you sleep better too.

2. Eat well

Having a balanced diet will help keep you healthy in body and mind. Ensure you're eating enough fresh fruit and veg and not overdoing it with high-calorie, high-sugar food.

3. Spend time outdoors

Make sure you're spending enough time away from your screen (whether that's a computer or your phone). Being in natural surroundings can be calming and help you gain perspective. Not thinking straight? Take time out to go for a walk – it's rejuvenating and can help clear your head.

4. Breathe

In high-anxiety situations, breathing techniques can help you completely recover and regain control. In every-day situations, breathing can be used in the same way to help to reduce stress. Drop your shoulders and take some deep breaths.

5. Socialise

Keep in contact with those close to you – take the time to phone friends or family and not just rely on messaging. A heart-to-heart can help you gain a different perspective on what's causing you stress.

6. Plan your time

Use the calendar app on your phone, buy a diary or planner or make a to-do list – whatever it takes to get yourself organised! Being organised reduces the chance of missed deadlines or appointments. Make sure you factor in time for relaxing and socialising as well as university and paid work.

7. Prioritise tasks

Work out what needs doing right now and what can wait – set aside time for both. Tasks can be grouped into four categories: urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important and neither urgent nor important. Work out which of these a task is before you start on it!

8. Reward yourself

Just completed that difficult essay or achieved something that's been on your to-do list forever? Then make sure you stop and reward yourself! Focusing on achievements helps you feel more positive overall.

9. Sleep

Sleeping well improves everything! Your health, your ability to think straight and cope and even your metabolism. Ensure you're getting enough shut-eye each night (around 6-9 hours).

10. Seek support

If you're in need of support, then reach out – either to friends or family or our supportive Wellbeing team, the University Health Centre or Kooth Student (online counselling).

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