While those who have long since finished uni love to nostalgically reminisce, students currently enrolled at university may not have quite the same warm fuzzy feelings about their tertiary institution.
In lots of ways, university can be one of the most stressful times of your life and cramming for exams is just the start of it!
The Stress of University
Common stressors at University can include:
- Moving out of home, finding somewhere to live – possibly for the first time;
- Being in a new environment all on your own and having to “find your feet”;
- Greater academic workload;
- Increased expectations of yourself;
- Anxiety around getting the best grades possible;
- Completing assignments before deadlines;
- Increased financial responsibility, paying bills, setting up bank accounts and the prospect of lots of debt!;
- More independence and having to make decisions for yourself;
- Part time employment;
- Family and social commitments;
- Balancing fun with work;
- Worrying about your future career path and life after graduation;
- Exposure to new people, ideas and temptations;
- Awareness of sexual identity and orientation;
- Peer pressure to experiment with illicit substances.
All this stress can affect us on many levels and appear in many forms. Symptoms of stress include:
- muscular tension;
- colds or other illnesses;
- high blood pressure;
- weight change;
- accident prone;
- headaches and backaches.
- fear or anxiety;
- feeling overwhelmed;
- mood swings;
- nervous laughter;
- crying spells.
- sleep disturbances;
- constant hurrying;
- increased alcohol consumption;
- increased caffeine consumption;
- social withdrawal/isolation;
- lowered sex drive.
- unwanted or repetitive thoughts;
- poor concentration skills;
- no new ideas;
- negative thoughts.
Tips for Surviving University
- Have realistic expectations: While it would be nice to get 100% for every assignment, this may not be feasible, particularly if you are juggling other commitments like work and/or would like to have a social life. Develop realistic goals for yourself and stop beating yourself up for only “passing” the course. You passed!
- Be organised: Keep your space and therefore your mind organised. Living in a pig sty will subconsciously add to your stress level. Tidy it up and reap the benefits.
- Go to class: While it may seem like a no-brainer, going to class is vital. While many unis these days have lecture recordings, this isn’t the same as listening to something in person.
- Exercise: Try to include some physical activity during your week. This will help reduce tension and improve your mood and concentration
- Sleep: As tempting as those all-nighters are, your academic performance will improve with plenty of rest. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. Also, getting sleep the night before an exam usually has a bigger payoff than extra hours spent cramming.
- Eat: McDonald’s and two-minute noodles do not constitute a balanced diet. 3 well-balanced meals a day is the key. Your body and brain function better when you feed yourself nutritional food.
- Reduce alcohol, drug and caffeine intake: These substances may heighten anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, depression and decrease more functional coping mechanisms.
- Maintain communication with your family: Yes university is a time of freedom and independence but if your family supports your university studies, talking to them can help you gain perspective and remember what really matters.
- Ask for Help: If you are struggling to understand your class material talk to your tutors or lecturers. Academic staff want you to pass and generally look favourably on proactive students. If you don’t want to approach a staff member try asking another student for help. Group study sessions are a great way of consolidating your knowledge and can also be more fun that sitting in your room by yourself.
- Get involved: The social side of university is just as important as the academic. Join a new club, take up a new activity, volunteer your time. Not only will getting involved provide a relaxing break from the academic side of uni, but will also help you meet new people and become a more rounded person. Furthermore, employers often want to see that you have interests beyond your chosen field of study.
- Take regular study breaks: It is impossible to be productive for hours on end. Your study will be more effective if you take short breaks every hour or so.
- Embrace your touchy-feely side: Whether it’s hugging, holding hands, or stroking a pet – physical contact is a great way to relieve stress.
Remember, it is impossible to have a completely-stress free life as a university student. However, while a little bit of stress is good as it motivates us to achieve, high levels of stress for prolonged periods of time have very negative health implications.
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Ashley Cooper is a registered Clinical Psychologist, working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.