Dealing with stress & maintaining your wellbeing
Let’s face it – January is a stressful time in the university world. It's full of assignment deadlines, exams and module completions and this brings with it testing times and high emotions. Unfortunately, we do not want to be off our game due to stress but sometimes this can inevitably happen if we get too bogged down with self-expectations. That being said, it is a completely normal response to feel stressed about these sorts of things. The question is, how to do you strike a balance between normal and unhealthy ways of coping with stress?
Stay realistic. We all appreciate that, especially if you’re in your last year, you want to make sure you perform your very best during exams and in assignments. And while this motivation is good, it can also become unhealthy to the point where you may put too much importance on your performance. Remember to think of it as what it is – an opportunity to showcase your potential, but not the end of the world if it doesn’t go to plan. You always have other chances to retake or make up for any mistakes!
Prepare. The best way to decrease stress is going about an exam or assignment in a prepared manner – don’t leave it until the last minute, ask any questions you need to a couple of weeks before, etc – you know the drill. Don’t make this classic mistake and add unnecessarily to your stress.
Avoid caffeine/alcohol/etc. As you may be aware, caffeine is a classic example of a stimulant drug – and these are widely known to kick-start adrenaline and be a cause of increase of stress rather than a healthy remedy. Similarly, alcohol is known to be a depressant, which whilst drinking it may make you feel relaxed and good, however can have an adverse effect on your mental health the next day or even later on while drinking – and this is not going to help your stress during exam time.
Get your sleep. This is sometimes hard to achieve especially when you are stressed, but try and disassociate your room with anything that reminds you of your exams so it becomes a place of relaxation. Use your bedroom as a place to step back. Do something you enjoy that also calms you before going to sleep. Also, lavender is really good to dab onto your pillow as a natural remedy to help you drift off!
Find your balance. It’s healthy to have rewards like socialising, watching a movie or taking a break away from your studies. You cannot maintain concentration levels for 8+ hours straight. Remember, quality over quantity!
Rely on your routines. There is something awfully comforting about a routine, whether it’s just before you go to bed, or on your way to work/university. Following your usual rituals can help you regain a sense of control over your daily activities which can alleviate your stress.
Get out of your head. The circling thoughts and worries that may be going through your head are bound to get you down. At times where you feel like this, it’s good to engage your physical body – this could be drawing, knitting, running or climbing that inevitably put focus onto something else other than your thoughts.
Focus on gratitude. Sometimes, its good to step back and list the things in your life, from big to small, that you are grateful for or enhance your life and make it better. Gratitude has been associated with activation of dopamine, a feel-good neuro-transmitter, which naturally reduces feelings of stress.