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Coping with Stress

Life is demanding for many people, and can sometimes be experienced as stressful. Decisions need to be made, problems solved, assignments completed, exams revised for, money managed and relationships. The first step to feeling better is to identify the cause of your stress and try to make changes. 

What is Stress?

Stress is quite difficult to pin down and explain but when we say something is stressful or that “I feel stressed” we could be talking about; situations or events that put pressure on us or our reaction to being placed under pressure.

Feeling stress can show physical signs such as tiredness, headaches, disturbed sleep, guilty feelings, thinking negatively and many more.

Why do certain things make me feel stressed?

The amount of stress we feel can be different due to our own perception of the situation, how we deal with pressure and our emotional resilience. This is different for everyone and is good to remember if someone says they feel stressed, but you don’t understand why.

Stress can be managed by understanding and managing external pressures and developing your own emotional resilience.


Signs of Stress

You might begin to feel irritable, aggressive, impatient, anxious, nervous or afraid, neglected or lonely, unable to enjoy yourself, uninterested in life or
a sense of dread. 

You might start finding it hard to make decisions, avoiding situations that are troubling you, snapping at people, biting your nails, smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual, feeling tearful or crying. unable to concentrate. 

Physically you might be dealing with shallow breathing or hyperventilating, problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, headaches, chest pains, high blood pressure, panic attacks, constipation or diarrohea or indigestion or heartburn. 

Stress can manifest in a number of ways so it's good to recognise some of the signs that you may be feeling stressed. 

Understand what is stressful in your life

It's very good to understand just how much you are coping with at once, think about the following; 

Issues that come up regularly such as bills or attending regular appointments. 

One-Off events that are on your mind a lot such as exams or assignments.

Ongoing stressful events such as having problems at work.

Remember, it's not helpful to focus on things you cannot change. This isn't easy but if you can accept there are things out of your control you can begin focusing on those that are in your control. 

Organise your Time

Organising your time can help you focus on the tasks at appropriate times and make you feel more in control. 

Find out if you are a morning or evening person and dedicate the most important tasks to those times.

Make a list of the things you must do and arrange them in order of importance

Try not to do too much at once, this will make you feel overwhelmed and more stressed!

Take breaks, it is difficult when you are stressed but having a break can re-energize you and make you more productive.

Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is the ability to adapt to situations and bounce back when something stressful or impactful happens in your life. We have a workshop dedicated to emotional resilience called ‘How to overcome setbacks and cultivate success’ think about signing up here.

Practice being straightforward and assertive, learn that it’s okay to say no and how you feel. Don't take on more than you can handle. 

Try relaxation techniques, understand what helps you relax and set time away to do it. This can help you come back refreshed and ready to tackle your tasks.

Find an activity away from what causes you stress. Think about what else interests you that isn’t linked to work, assignments or caring responsibilities and dedicate time to doing it.

Make time for friends and connections, they can help you feel more positive and less isolated. If you are struggling with loneliness you can read our page here

Find Balance, after recognising what stresses you you might realise that one thing is taking up a lot of your time and energy. See if you can minimize this and dedicate time to things you enjoy.

Challenge unhelpful thoughts, sometimes you may think really negative things about yourself or your situation, take a minute to re-think and be kinder to yourself. Think if you would say what you were thinking to your close friend.

Accept the things you can't change, focus your energy on things you can control. It may not be easy but letting go of uncontrollable situations can reduce your stress

Giving yourself a break

Recognise your achievements! No matter how small, treat yourself to something you enjoy and remember to say to yourself ‘well done’

Allocate time in your day for breaks, If you find it hard to take a break specifically marking down times to take a break may help. Set an alarm on your phone or ask someone to remind you to take a break. 

Get a change of scenery, go outside on a short walk to change what you are looking at. Sitting at the computer or the same spot for hours is not the best.

Resolve Conflicts, if you are being stressed by relationships between colleagues, friends or family. See if you can resolve these by talking to them, a manager or your personal tutor.

Forgive yourself, if you make a mistake don’t be negative and mean to yourself. Nobody is perfect. Putting extra pressure on yourself does not help.

Support Available

Friends and Family - Talk to someone about how you feel. Sharing your worries is one of the best ways to ease things. Talking about the amount of work you have to do can help to put things in perspective, and make you feel less isolated and more normal. 

If you feel like you can't talk to friends or family think about submitting a referral form or calling StudentSpace, they offer phone, text, email and webchat support about any issue. 

Support at University - Talk to the wellbeing team by submitting a referral form to the service or your personal tutor. If you feel overwhelmed with work you can think about asking for an extension from your module leader or taking extenuating circumstances.

For hobbies and taking a break, the SU has a big range of societies you could sign up to as well as frequent fun events

Get in touch with Study Skills to ask for tips and advice about time management. 

Online Peer Support - think about signing up to Togetherall. The service offers anonymous peer and community support, moderated and facilitated by trained clinicians.

Online ModulesTogetherall and Silvercloud health both offer modules on managing stress, think about signing up and working through one. 

Your GP - Speaking to your GP can help as they can check your overall health and help you access treatments. They could also recommend that you take time off work or university and sign medical notes for you. If you are unsure of who or where your nearest GP is then you can use the NHS Find a GP page. 

Some things that you might think of doing to try to relieve stress can actually make it worse. Drinking too much alcohol will probably make you feel worse in the long run as alcohol is a depressant. The cause of the stress will still be there when you sober up. Coping with Alcohol gives more information.

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