student life

How to mentally handle the dreaded S word: Stress

Whether you’re in the final death throes of your GCSEs or coming up to the concluding chapter of your dissertation, the next few months are going to signal one thing for you: stress.

Whether you’re in the final death throes of your GCSEs or coming up to the concluding chapter of your dissertation, the next few months are going to signal one thing for you: stress. Mammoth amounts of it in fact—you’re going to want to hide under your pillow, stuff your face with pizza and generally just weep all at the same time. Some of you may thrive on it and simply stroll through the following weeks with ease, but for a majority of you, it’s going to be a bit of a slog.

This all-consuming stress will wake you up sweating in the middle of the night, leave you looking awful during the day and make you run the remainder of your life on auto pilot. Your skin is going to go to pot, your hair will get greasy and you will either survive solely on coffee or sugar. And in some cases wine or your preferred alcoholic drink. Men and women alike,  you are not going to look your most attractive come hand in day and the enormous sense of relief of finally being free will outweigh the fact that none of you have probably showered for the last week. But until then, you need to know how to cope with this stress, not just physically but also mentally, because even if you haven’t cleansed and toned since the last full moon, you could risk putting all your previous hard work into jeopardy.

Change environment.

Staring at your laptop, revision notes or sketch book in the same room, at the same table all day, every day, is not going to keep you sane. It may work at the beginning, but you need to mix it up. You could try moving to the other side of the table, changing rooms or by completely swapping your location all together. And  don’t just choose somewhere where there will be other crazed students slapping away at their keyboards like the library or local coffee shop; go to the park, your aunt’s house, the Starbucks across town where the barista doesn’t know your favourite drinks order. This way you have new scenery; there are new people to watch, a view that isn’t just the wallpaper in your bedroom and most importantly, you would have got fresh air getting there.

So just go, pack up and leave and the headspace you get purely by changing the atmosphere you work in will be phenomenal.

Get your blood pumping.

The last thing you want to do when up to your eyes in revision is go to the gym; all those ripped, toned bodies just remind you of how lax your fitness routine has been lately. But going for a walk, a jog or even star jumps in your living room can make the world of difference when you’re stressing out.

Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, a pretty powerful chemical in your brain that can lift your spirits and make you feel more positive. It also helps improve your brainpower, so that chapter you couldn’t understand about photosynthesis might make all the more sense after a quick sprint round the block.

You will also find it gives you time to think and take stock on where you are going with your studies. You could think about where you want to study or work after your final exam or whether you want to change your chosen industry altogether. Doing 15-30 minutes of exercise isn’t just about those longed after endorphins or washboard abs, it’s a time in the day where you can zone out for a little bit and have some ‘you’ time. It’s corny, but you will ultimately feel refreshed and ready to tackle any problems thrown at you that day.

Look after yourself.

Furthermore, a great stress management strategy is to take time to look after you, and I’m not talking about an all-night bender down the pub the night before a final; going to the cinema, taking a long bath, listening to music really, really loud.

Relaxation mentally prepares yourself for handling stressful situations so it is the small things like this that will help you cope next time stress rears its ugly head.

Take perspective of the situation.          

You need to remember that there will be an end to your studies; exams will finish, your major project will be handed in. If there is one thing that is certain throughout the next couple of months it’s that your deadline will come and go.

Don’t read this and start freaking out, it is merely just a part of accepting your stress and after doing this you then have control of the situation. Telling yourself everything will be awful and you will never succeed will get you nowhere; make lists and tick them off, call it a day when you’re starting to nap on your textbook. The exam will stay take place, you will finish your coursework, accept the inevitable and life will deal you a kinder hand.

And if that doesn’t help…

Have something to look forward to after deadline day.

Book a spa day, cheap theatre tickets, meeting an old friend for coffee and cake, absolutely anything as long as it is after your deadline day, this way you can remind yourself that there is life after your course. It’s also important to do these things and touch base with people that aren’t doing the same degree/NVQ/BTEC as you, as they too will reiterate that there is more going on in life other than whether magazines will have a future in the digital age or how Bauhaus completely changed the future of architecture; it’s again about perspective and it’s the biggest tool you will need to master.

I wish you all the best of luck and see you on the other side.

What’s your tip on handling stress? Have your say and offer your suggestions in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.