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Tuesday 12 February 2019

Stress is a huge part of the university experience. While it has its benefits, such as giving you motivation to work and perform under pressure, it also causes a lot of problems. Most people, when overly stressed, will experience negative emotions, anxiety, sleeping problems, and many more physical and mental health issues. You might even completely shut down and find yourself unable to meet a deadline or continue your work. But don’t worry - this is a completely normal thing to experience and you are not alone. Try these things to help you study and work when you are under a lot of stress, as well as learn how to prevent becoming overly-stressed in the future:

1. Find a method that works best for you

Everyone works differently and some will find it easier to work in short energy-spikes rather than over a long period of time. It does go without saying, however, that preparation is key when working towards a deadline.

If you have an essay to write, collect sources in advance and make a rough plan. You can then either work on different sections bit-by-bit over time, or you can write the whole thing in one-go with the knowledge that you know what you want to say and how you’re going to say it.

You can also google different techniques of studying. One method I find helpful is working for fifteen minutes – when your focus is optimal – and taking a five-minute break before getting back to it for another fifteen minutes.  

2. Create a relaxing environment

Whenever I have a huge deadline coming up I like to tidy my room so that it’s clean and organised, put on some mood-lighting by using colour-lamps and fairy lights, and play some calming background noise on YouTube or Spotify. I also like to use essential oils in my diffuser, my favourite being lavender.

Find a way to make your environment comfortable and calming. See if you can create somewhere that will stimulate your different senses. Alternatively, try going to a café to immerse yourself in ambience, or go to the library so that your mind is forced in to a working mind-set.

3. Take a step back and relax

If, like me, you tend to experience brain fog, you might find yourself in what I like to call a ‘stress spiral’. You’re stressed about your work and the stress shuts down your ability to work… which, annoyingly, creates even more stress.

Break this cycle by switching your attention to something else. Even if for a short while, distract yourself and try not to think about your work. If you’ve become so stressed that you’re unable to work, the only way out is by not working. After you’ve taken some time to relax, your brain will be able to get going again.

4. Try and maintain a regular sleeping schedule

Easier said than done – believe me, I know. It is, however, important that you get as much sleep as you can. It’s recommended to get between 7-9 hours a night in order to perform as best you can.

By not sleeping you will be slow, unresponsive, lacking alertness, even more stressed, and find it difficult to remember information. That means no all-nighters! Even if you find it difficult to sleep, at least get as much rest as you can so that your body has a chance to restore itself. Remember to see your GP if your sleeping struggles go far beyond your control or you struggle from conditions such as insomnia or hypersomnia.

5. Reach out to someone

I guarantee you that others in your life will be experiencing stress, just like you. Reach out to friends, family, and loved ones and find a way to cope together. One of my close friends and I like to get together at my house in the evenings, the time of day where we find it easiest to work, and chill out in a relaxing environment during our study breaks. We call it the ‘Jessie Sleep/Study Spa’!

Even if you struggle to work alongside someone else, at least try to send them a text, give them a call, or arrange a time to meet in the future. You’ll find that having something to look forward to will provide great motivation and, like I said before, sometimes you just need that break!

I hope these tips will help you cope and work when you are feeling stressed. Even if you find that the stress is too overwhelming to cope with, remain calm and don’t worry! There are plenty of ways that Solent can help you deal with the stress.

See the student Hub to find out how to apply for extensions, if you feel you need one. Ask about the student counselling services provided here, or contact Steps2Wellbeing Southampton for free therapy sessions. You can also ring the Samaritans on +44 116123 if you just need someone to talk to.