Student Services News

News from the Student Services Centre (Carrington Building)

Month: October 2019

How to Reduce Exam Stress

Exams can be scary. First, studying. Weeks of preparation, late nights and cramming are stressful. Next, waiting. The countdown to results day leads to anxiety and more stress.

Yet, there is a better way.

1. Watch for the signs of bad stress

Stress can be good sometimes; it can help you to work harder and focus. But it can also have a negative effect and make it hard to cope. Stress might be affecting you if you:

  • Feel tense
  • Get lots of headaches and stomach pains
  • Feel irritable
  • Lose interest in food or eat more than normal
  • Not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
  • Seem negative and low in mood
  • Struggle to sleep
  • Always thinking about your exams or worrying about them

2. Talk about what’s happening

Talking about how you’re feeling can reduce the pressure and help you to feel more in control. Or it can help someone realise that they might be putting too much pressure on you. Why not try:

  • Talking to a friend you trust
  • Talking to a parent or family member
  • Getting advice from other students on message boards
  • Contact student services, a trusted lecturer or contact the University counselling and wellbeing service

3. Find ways to relax and take breaks

No matter how much work you have to do, it’s important to take regular breaks and find ways to relax. Taking a break can leave you feeling in control and research suggests it makes it easier to concentrate when you start working again.

Try the following tips:

  • Set a timer to take a 15-minute break every hour
  • Give yourself something to look forward to, like a treat or an activity you enjoy
  • Plan when you’re going to start and finish your revision, so you know when to stop

4. Stay healthy

There are small things you can do every day to help you cope:

  • Eat healthily – Make sure you don’t skip meals
  • Exercise – This can clear your mind and give you more energy
  • Self-care – find things that help you to feel calm and relaxed

5. Get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep can help you to concentrate more and feel less stressed. It might be tempting to stay up late revising, but sometimes this can make you feel even more stressed.

  • Decide when you’re going to stop revising and don’t push yourself to stay up later.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially in the evening.
  • Give yourself time to relax after you stop revising.
  • Eat early in the evening.

6. Preparing for the exam

  • Simple things make a difference. Do some planning and make a checklist of everything you need
  • Prepare all equipment pens and pencils the night before.
  • Go to bed early
  • In the morning have a healthy breakfast to help you focus and concentrate.

Further support

Stress affects everyone differently, but if you’re worried, you don’t have to cope alone.

Contact student services, a trusted lecturer or contact the University counselling and wellbeing service. They will work with you to identify the issue so it can be tackled appropriately.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace

How to Meet New People and Make Friends

Some people make friends easily, while others find it more difficult. Leaving home and starting at university can mean leaving friends behind, leaving a gap in your life.

Research shows a peak in the number of friends during our early 20s, followed by a steady decline as we move into our late 20s. Some friendships do last a lifetime, but people do change and friendships don’t always last.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to meet new people and establish new friendships. For most of us, that’s easier said than done. So how do you make new friends when you need and want them?

  1. Recognize that it’s normal and even healthy to want to make new friends.
    1. Remember making new connections does not have to mean that you are being disloyal to your old friends.
  2. Realise it’s not your fault you aren’t making friends.
    1. Nobody taught you how to make friends as an adult and how difficult it can be. Most advice (‘just be yourself’) isn’t practical and you need clear advice, which is hard to find.
  3. Find like-minded people.
    1. Find a society or group on a subject you enjoy or have an interest in. If you can’t think of one, just look at the Student Union website and pick one that seems interesting.
  4. Take a look at some of the connections that already exist in your life.
    1. Find something in common. One great way to meet new people is to think of something that you enjoy. Whether it’s looking after animals, reading books, cooking, playing videogames, or collecting something, someone else out there will enjoy it too. The good thing about meeting people because of shared interest is that there is always a topic of conversation.
  5. If it’s not easy for you to make new connections, don’t give up right away.
    1. The idea of leaving the house or being surrounded by people might make you anxious. This is completely normal. To reduce anxiety, keep trying, setting new challenges each time. For example, at a first society meeting, you might want to just ‘drop-in’ for 30 minutes. Next time, try an hour. Then, try introducing yourself.
    2. Remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” for making new friends. It might be as simple as just talking to other people. When making friends take the initiative you don’t wait for your friend to message you. If they don’t reply right away, don’t give up on them. Having a good friend means being a good friend too. Being there for someone and listening to them when they need you are just as important as them doing the same for you.

There is no doubt that making and maintaining friendships is important and takes emotional investment. In the long run, it is well worth the effort.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace

How to Balance your Workload for Good Mental Health

The relentless pace of modern life makes work-life balance seem almost impossible. With deadlines looming and bills to pay, your social plans, fitness and sleep suffer, harming relationships, health and overall happiness.

We’ve put together a simple guide with some helpful tips to reduce the pressure and help you enjoy your university experience.

Are you a Perfectionist?

Having fought through competitive examinations and application processes to be here, many students have perfectionists habits.

Perfectionists tend to set standards so high that they are impossible to reach, or are only met with great difficulty. Perfectionists believe that anything slightly short of perfection is horrible and that even minor imperfections will lead to disaster.

For a perfectionist, every exam, assignment and activity must be perfect to succeed. This may have worked in high school or college, yet as your life expands to include new responsibilities, perfectionism can be destructive. A more complicated social life, caring for yourself and part-time employment all take more time, and the old perfectionist habit becomes impossible to reach.

Do I have perfectionist habits?

Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have trouble meeting your standards?
  2. Do you feel frustrated while trying to meet your standards?
  3. Have friends told you your standards are too high?
  4. Do your standards get in the way? For example, do they make it difficult for you to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or do anything spontaneously?

Overcoming perfectionist habits

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, consider trying ‘excellence’ instead. Whereas a perfectionist would work day and night, a habit of excellence means:

  • Completing work to the best of your abilities within the time available. Try setting yourself a generous but fixed amount of time for each task, breaking assignments down into manageable chunks. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you’ve completed the task.
  • Look at the big picture. Consider what matters and what is worth your time and worry. For example, worrying over what font to use for an email is unproductive.
  • Taking regular breaks. Even short breaks increase productivity and creativity according to research, by helping you stay focused. Why spend 3 hours working in a distracted state, when 1 hour could do?
  • Compromise when your workload is demanding. For example, instead of planning to spend 5 hours on a presentation, consider spending 3 hours instead.

Unplug for 1 hour a day

Research suggests that turning off your phone can have huge benefits:

  • Your brain works better when not multi-tasking – and waiting for notifications counts
  • You’ll make better friendships by being fully present and paying attention during conversations
  • You’ll sleep better – phone notifications and that blue light can disturb sleep

Try turning off your phone whilst at the gym, in a lecture or before bed.

Ask for help

It’s okay to ask for help.

If the expectations of your part-time employer are too much and the hours difficult around your studies, speak up. Employers are increasingly understanding of mental health issues and should accommodate your studies.

The same is true at university. If you are feeling the pressure, your classmates are too. Too many students drop out without speaking to an advisor due to stress.

How to ask for help

Contact student services, a trusted lecturer or contact the University counselling and wellbeing service. They will work with you to identify the issue so it can be tackled appropriately.

For example, if the course content is the issue, your advisor might arrange for extra help, private study sessions or speak with the lecturer to improve the course. If the issue is unrelated to studies, advisors will help you get an extension to deadlines so you can work on the issue.

Start small and build

Most New Year’s resolutions last until February. Many students commit to changing their work habits too much, then return to bad habits just as quickly.

Instead, try just one tip from this article and see how your life improves. Keep building from there.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace

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