Student Engagement Ambassador, Dal, discusses why managing your stress is important and offers advice on how to manage your stress.

April is Stress Awareness Month, but what exactly is stress?

Stress is a universal experience. As defined on the NHS website, ‘stress is usually a reaction to mental or emotional pressure’. It is a normal human reaction, and everyone has experienced it. How each person reacts to stress is different – the important thing is learning to manage your own stress and cope with the pressure.

Stress is not a foreign concept to most, if not all, people. Stress manifest itself differently to different people. Sometimes you notice that you or your body react differently even in different situations. Minor stress for me usually results in pacing around and getting fidgety with random objects. Major stress for me may result in unhealthy impulsive decision-making moments. The most this has affected me physically is heart palpitations and headaches. Friends and loved ones of mine also experienced stress which affected their physical health. Some of which lead to stress induced ulcers, migraines, and insomnia. The build up of stress may lead to serious health problems – mental and physical.

Not all stress is bad, sometimes stress helps to avoid danger or to be motivated to meet deadlines. What matters is how you respond to stress and how you manage it. Some unhealthy examples include alcohol and smoking. Especially in the university environment, it is easy to turn to alcohol and night outs as a way of coping with stress – not inherently a bad thing but an excessive amount can be a danger. As university students, most of us have more freedom in the way we live as we become more independent. This freedom is also present in the ways we manage our workload with assignments and deadlines. It can be extremely stressful when deadlines and exams approach and you may feel you have not got enough work done. I have been in that situation.

As I have grown up, I have learnt that there are healthier ways to cope with stress. Here are some ways to manage your stress:

Wherever you are:

  • Pursed Lip Breathing (inhale slowly with mouth closed for 2 counts, exhale slowly through puckered/pursed lips for 4 counts)
  • Speak out loud what is stressing you out (with a friend or to yourself, it may help ground you)
  • Leave (whether it is the situation or just your room, change of environment will help you think about it clearly)

In your room:

  • Organise/Clean your room, a cluttered room may not be the best environment to de-stress
  • Entertainment – take a break by watching or doing something entertaining, examples include funny YouTube videos or Netflix shows
  • Exercise – doesn’t have to be intense, physical movement will help with blood circulation the release of endorphins

In the long term, it is a good idea to commit yourself to a hobby or interest which will help with stress release. Some of which includes singing, gym, sports or knitting. I personally find that drawing feels therapeutic for me. Timetabling your work schedule and making time for both work and play is important in maintaining not only your stress but your overall health. Every individual is different so what works best for you may not be the same for everyone else. It is just a case of finding out what suits you the best when it comes to managing your stress.

If you feel you are unable to cope with stress and are experiencing situations beyond your control, it would be a good idea to let your academic tutor know. You should also talk to the University’s Student Welfare Team either by email or in person in the Carrington building on campus! If you are experiencing mental health difficulties, you should also consider contacting the Disability Advisory Service.

I hope you try out these tips when you feel stressed! I also encourage everyone to tell us their own ways of coping with stress. Do contact the university’s pastoral team as they are here to help and support students.

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