Wednesday 16 May 2018

Coping with Stress

Tazmin shares her experience of stress at University and her tips for coping with it.
- Tazmin

Stress is a part of life, but when felt to an extreme level it can have life-damaging effects.

During and post-university you are going to be met with stress, but I believe part of the reason students become so stressed is because they’re surprised by how much pressure they’re feeling. You’re going to have moments in university where stress consumes you and if you already suffer with an anxiety disorder then the levels of stress, for you, may feel more extreme however, the ways you can deal with this are all the same.

Stress affects us all via our bodily responses, our thoughts and our behaviour. When recognising these symptoms, we can get a head start in learning how to recognise and manage them effectively.

Firstly, when you are feeling high stress every day, it can have an impact on your immune system, meaning you’re more likely to become ill and this illness will prolong itself – I’ve had a cough/cold for 6 weeks due to this fact – when I usually recover from them within 4-5 days at most.

Secondly, when we are feeling stressed, our mood will inevitably change, and we may feel high anxiety, fidgety and restless, overwhelmed, easily irritable or low and maybe even depressed. These changes in our mood then affect our behaviour, including changing the way we eat, causing bursts of anger, and causing us to use other substances more frequently, such as drugs and alcohol. We may also withdraw ourselves socially and naturally this can have effects on your personal relationships.

The effects of stress can be damaging and can prolong themselves in a way that impacts your mental and physical health. Therefore, there are a few things that must be said to attempt to prevent long withstanding stress levels - such as:

1. Don’t leave your work to the last minute, this should go without saying, but we’ve all done it and we’ve all felt the stress and pressure from doing so. It’s easy to say, ‘oh I’ve got plenty of time’ and then BAM it’s May and you’re like ‘oh no I’ve got no time’

2. Get an academic diary and USE IT! It will help you feel more in control and know what’s what.

3. If you’re a relatively free-spirited individual who would benefit from a little structure, make a realistic timetable including all the current modules, coursework and exams to be completed.  Give a reasonable amount of time per item and stick to it! If it’s not working for you, be realistic and change it.

4. Have time for yourself as overworking yourself doesn’t help your immune system either. Sometimes people stress about not doing anything and feel guilty – but we need time to recuperate and relax. Let’s say you’ve just handed in your dissertation but have an exam next week you need to revise for. Take a night off, then get back into it. You’re allowed time for yourself.

5. Be active, don’t just wake up and go to the library everyday – get yourself a gym membership, or just go for a long walk every now and then. Do something active to get those endorphins pumping and your mind distracted.

Now, these few things may contribute to preventing stress but you’re still going to feel stressed – it’s university and it’s a big deal! You’re paying a lot of money and you may feel swamped with work. I mean, I was often referred to as a ‘stress head’ during university and I did a lot of group work on my course and that energy can be infectious. If everyone around you is in the same boat and are talking non-stop about university and their work load, it can become overwhelming and you may feel like you need to take time out.

Be with you; watch your favourite show, go for a walk without your phone, take yourself away from the energy and know that with hard work – all will be ok.

To finish off, I have recently learnt a little Buddhist meditation practice that helps me when my mind starts going too fast with anxiety and wanted to share it. So, take a moment when you feel the stress taking over you, stop and look around you. Without judgement, in your head, or written down on paper think of:

5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch or reach out to touch
2 things you can smell
1 deep breath

And remember, you got this. Don’t let stress tell you otherwise – okay?

Hey everyone, I’m Taz. My journey suffering with depression and anxiety has been and can continue to be a difficult one; but I would not be who I am today had I not accepted my illness and work hard to get better. I have recently graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a First in Film and Media Production. I’ve been writing my blog Awareness for over two years and it has been truly rewarding for me. I write about the things many people fear talking about – our wonderfully complex minds. I wish to encourage anyone suffering through university and offer them a helping hand. Happy reading.

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