Tuesday 21 April 2015

Stress - AHHH, everything feels overwhelming!!

- Ruth Beacon

So, you’re probably in the middle of revising for exams or mid essay/dissertation writing and thinking ‘will this ever end?’ (yes it will!). Have you ever felt overwhelmed with university work? or overcome with pressure? So much so that you find yourself hiding away, not socialising, troubles with sleeping or using unhealthy ways of coping. If so, I hope this post if helpful to you.

Ok, so everyone needs a bit of stress in their lives, it helps you get stuff done- basically it gives you motivation. Otherwise you would not get anything done- so that means that those dreaded deadlines are useful! Stress causes emotions to be released which lead to either a flight or fight response, these emotions then calm down after the pressure has been lifted.

According to the NHS stress is when someone feels under too much emotional or mental pressure and feels unable to cope. Mind, the mental health charity, describe stress as a thick cloud of fog that you cannot see beyond. Stress becomes a problem when it hinders daily and normal life

How do I deal with stress?

There are several ways of keeping yourself stress free and everyone has different coping mechanisms. But here are a few ideas:

1. Compartmentalise: When you have a list of topics to revise you don’t do them all at once, do you? You spilt them up into smaller sections to make things more manageable. Compartmentalising is really useful to do if you feel overwhelmed with work. By splitting a task into smaller chunks, the task in hand becomes more achievable and does not seem as stressful.

2. List, list, list! I’m a big fan of lists (this blog post is a list) and linking to the first point above, lists help you break down a task. Plus, when you have completed something on your list, crossing it off feels extremely satisfying.

3. Stick to a routine: It is easy to be thrown off your daily routine when you feel stressed, you just want to solve the problem that is making you stressed out. But planning out your day and sticking to it will help you be productive in your ‘work’ times and relax during your ‘non-work’ times.

4. Eat regularly (and continue with your meal plan if you have one): We often struggle to maintain our normal routine when stressed! Eating a balanced diet can have a huge impact on helping maintain a sense of wellbeing so be sure not to underestimate its impact. This is especially important if you have struggled with your relationship with food. If you are aware that at times of stress you may struggle with maintaining your usual eating routine, talk to someone you trust and come up with some strategies to help.

5. Mindfulness: This is a big thing in mental health at the moment. Mindfulness enters around being aware and concentrating on the present moment, not becoming overwhelmed. It allows for a focus on our surroundings (smells, sounds), thoughts and emotions. You can do this anywhere- taking a walk and listening to the sounds, breathing in the smell of freshly cut grass or by lying down and listening to music and focusing on your breathing.

6. Exercise: This is a well known solution to stress, the release of hormones when you exercise can help you think more clearly. Again, if you have struggled with an addiction to exercise through an eating disorder, do not consider this one as it may bring up previous problems.

7. Have some ‘me’ time: This is something I am passionate about. Spending time on yourself is extremely important, be kind to yourself! You are doing well and deserve a break so go on that meal out with your friends or spend an hour watching your favourite show.

8. Be positive! This is self explanatory but the shift in attitude will help you see things differently - you may find yourself finding pleasure in small things.

I hope that you find these tips beneficial!

Some information was gathered from NHS choices and Mind.

For more tips about managing exam stress, check out the Student Minds Guide to Exam Stress, which has lots of tips and links to all the best external resources!

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