Thanks to Inna from The Daily Sunlight for collaborating with me on this post! We connected on Twitter over how difficult student stress and anxiety can be to deal with, and thought we could share some of our best tips.
Being a university student is hard! Don’t feel bad for being stressed out or feeling anxious – remind yourself that you’re in a stressful situation. Dealing with university stress is challenging! The main thing is to try to alleviate some of that stress and anxiety so you can enjoy your time and focus on learning.
A Few Tips on How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in University:
1. Use the Available Resources
Your campus is likely to have resources to help you deal with university stress, such as counsellors or student counsellors who may be able to support you. They may have tips for stress relief, or they may be able to talk you through some planning that could be calming, or they may know of other campus resources that may help. There is probably also a study skills centre to help you update your study skills so you feel more confident about your course materials.
Want more? Check out the post on The Top 5 People to Know at Your University to read about some university resources, and check out my Upcoming Workshops & Events for the next webinar on how to build confidence for university.
2. Organization is Key
Personally, I feel much less stressed out when I am organized, so having some good organizational systems can help. I work with a semesterly calendar and a weekly and daily to-do list. When I have a lot of deadlines (stressful!), I will go through my to-do list and figure out what can wait another day or longer.
The Eisenhower Matrix may also help – this is where you break your to-do list into four sections:
1) Urgent & Important (you have to get this done, it’s due soon);
2) important but not urgent (you need to start working on your final paper early, it’s important but you have time left);
3) urgent but not important (you have to fill out a form or do some admin work on a deadline);
4) not urgent or important (no deadline, not that important).
Go through your to-do list and categorize each of the tasks into the four categories. This may help you prioritize all of your tasks and focus attention on the ones that need to be done first.
I’ve also seen suggestions to only focus on the next most important task. Sometimes the urgent tasks take our time but actually aren’t very important, so make sure you think about what should be done next to reduce your academic anxiety.
If this particular method doesn’t work for you, the internet can provide a lot of advice. What do other students do? You can see how I stay organized, or go on any social media site to see more stress management techniques for students. Try looking for #studygram on Instagram for suggestions!
Want more? You can read about how I organize my time and priorities as a PhD student in my post on Time Managment and Prioritization for Students, or sign up for my online workshop on Time & Priority Management on Eventbrite.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Students
Another stress management tip for is: don’t compare yourself to others. You might look around at students around you and wonder “How are they all doing so well? Why aren’t they struggling, too?” But you don’t know. They might not be doing so well, and they could be struggling, too. Don’t worry about them. Worry about yourself. You got into the same program – you’re just as capable as everyone else. What’s that quote? “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
You can also try leveraging your jealousy – use it as a motivator. Do you see red when the girl you sit next to in bio tells you she got an A+? Ask her what study methods she uses, or ask her if she wants to study together. Maybe she has some techniques that would be helpful for you. Be open to learning from others and you might learn something helpful.
4. Be Proud of Your Achievements (Big and Small)
Make sure you are practicing gratitude and celebrating wins, even small ones. Did you submit your payroll form today? High five! Did you brush your teeth today? Excellent work! Take some time each day or week to recognize what you’ve accomplished. You got into uni. You’ve survived X semesters and you’re still there. You aced that exam last year. Your final paper in that one course was great. Or, the final exam in that one class was horrible but you still passed. Acknowledge the successes you’ve had. If you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything today or this week, write a ta-da list and put everything on it: made bed, brushed teeth, showered, made breakfast for mom, walked the dog, studied for 20 minutes… whatever you’ve managed to do.
What’s a ta-da list? I learned about tha ta-da list from Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier (episode 134 if you want to listen). Instead of making a to-do list where you write down what you haven’t done yet, on a ta-da list you write down what you already accomplished: ✅ made bed, ✅ brushed teeth, ✅ read newspaper, etc. This helps recognize what you managed to get done even though you might FEEL like you haven’t accomplished anything.
5. Everything Does Not Need To Be Perfect
Don’t be a perfectionist. Sometimes DONE is better than PERFECT. I feel that student stress and anxiety as I creeped closer to a deadline for an important assignment that I feel too intimidated to even start because I don’t think I could do it as well as I wanted to. But that procrastination doesn’t help – eventually you just have to act. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Sometimes just getting something done is better than being perfect. I would rather get 50% for a not-very-good paper than 0% for not handing in a paper at all!
The academic pressure of university is already quite high – when you add perfectionism to this, it can create additional stress. Focus on identifying your perfectionist tendencies so you can counterract them with logic.
6. Prioritize Your Health
Finally, don’t forget to prioritize your health, both mental and physical. Rest and breaks are super-important! I can’t stress this enough. I am often asked questions like, “How can I study for 23.5 hours a day?” Don’t do it – you need breaks, both short breaks between studying, and longer breaks to do something relaxing, get enough sleep, get some exercise, see friends and family, eat healthy food, etc. Which brings me to my next point…
7. Eat Well
As a student, you are busy and that could lead to bad nutrition. I know some people who eat a lot of junk food because they do not have time to cook. I understand if you do this once or twice a week but don’t eat junk food all day. It is not good for you. Take some time for yourself, cook and eat well. Eating well can also help you focus better with your studies and give you more energy than if you’re just fuelling with sugar-filled caffeinated drinks.
Taking care of your body will help you deal with all the student stress and anxiety that you have to face. Being well-rested, getting exercise, and eating nutritional food will help your body and mind stay sharp so you can focus on your courses.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If you are new to the University, you might be shy to ask for directions or simply ask any question. Don’t be! Ask all the questions you have. No one is really going to help you unless you request help. The same goes for your professors. If you don’t understand something in the class, ask your professor during or after the lecture.
If you need more information on how to deal with university anxiety, and feel that your stress has levelled up to anxiety, you may also need to speak to a mental health professional. If your stress or anxiety levels are so high that nothing works to help calm you, you should reach out to a professional for help. Sometimes just talking it through and coming up with a plan can help. Academic stress is a real challenge, and university students face very high levels of stress and anxiety. Make sure you take care of yourself by asking for help when needed.
9. Explore Your Campus
When you are on a lunch break or whenever you find yourself with extra time, explore around the University. Visit the library, check out the cafeteria, and go outside. Explore the beauty of the University on your own, you’ll get to see things and learn a lot of new things that might be helpful to you.
Make sure you explore all the services that are available, too. You can join student clubs and associations to meet friends, access career and academic advisors, improve your research skills – universities have supports for all of these, but sometimes you might have to do some searching to find them.
10. Take Time to Enjoy the Experience
University is stressful but it is also a very enjoyable experience. You get to learn a lot of things but also get to meet a lot of new people. Some of them can even become good friends. It is important to enjoy the process.
We all want to achieve our goals. Having good grades as well as maintaining them are usually a student’s main goal. But, we shouldn’t forget to take care of ourselves and take a break once in a while if we need to. We need to care about both our mental and physical health in order to perform well at school and deal with the stress and anxiety of being a student. University can help students achieve their dreams but we have to use the right resources that it offers and set timely, achievable goals in order for that to happen. Hopefully, we are able to focus on the right things and achieve our dreams.
Exam anxiety can be a very real challenge. You’re stuck in an environment that may create additional exam tension (due to distractions, temperature, one of those tiny desks that folds into the arm of the chair…). Additional exam pressure is created by the time limit.
So what can you do about exam stress? When you’re preparing, practice working under time limits, so that the day of the exam can feel less stressful. Get plenty of rest the night before your exam, so you can stay focused and finish in the time left. Start studying early, far ahead of time, so you don’t feel like you have to cram. These steps can all help you be more prepared and feel calmer as you go into an exam.
Let Me Know:
Are you a University student? If yes, how do you reduce your stress and anxiety? If you were a University student, how did you manage to focus on your studies and alleviate some of your student stress and anxiety? Let me know in the comments!
Thank You to Inna from The Daily Sunlight!
Thanks again to Inna for working on this post with me! Her blog The Daily Sunlight is great – she writes candidly about her life and is very active in the blogging community. If you want to know more about blogging, definitely check out her work!
These are my favourite posts from The Daily Sunlight:
If you’ve ever felt a little bit lost in your life or career, you’ll probably relate to her post The Lost Girl Who’s Living in Her Own World. She writes about feeling lost and the anxiety we face when we have to come up with our big plans for the future.
Are you a fan of Friends? I mean the iconic 90s tv show with the NYC roommates. I think we’re all fans of having friends in our lives 😉 If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll probably love Inna’s Blogmas 2020 posts where she posts Friends quizzes, trivia, and updates from her Friends advent calendar.