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How students can combat stress

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How stressful is your university course?

Credit to Tim Gouw

NatWest’s Student Living Index is back and has delved once more into student spending, their attitudes toward spending and the overall cost of living, as well as their motivations and stressors. Students across the UK were asked to rate their level of stress towards studying for their degree and managing their finances, with 10 being the highest. It was found that almost half (43%) rated the stress of their university degree an 8 or higher. 

Which students are experiencing the worst stress?

Students at Oxford and Cambridge are experiencing some of the worst degree stress, with nearly 15% of male students and 8.7% of female students at Cambridge rating their stress level 10. Oxford students were facing similar stress levels with 13.7% at the very top. 

While the pressure of attending Oxbridge may not come as a surprise, it’s actually students in Stirling who are the most stressed, with almost 1 in 5 rating themselves level 10. And it’s not just studying which is causing them to feel the pressure, it’s managing their money as well. Almost a third (31.5%) rated the stress of pinching pennies an 8 out of 10 or higher. This was over 10% more than the UK average at just 19%. 

What do the experts say?

Dr Michael Smith, a psychology professor at Northumbria University, gave us his thoughts on these findings “Going to university can be a stressful time for a number of reasons. Firstly, for many students, going to university can mean living away for the first time. This can lead to feelings of loneliness because family and friends from home are no longer around to provide the same level of social support as previously.”

He also said the typical student’s way of life will only exacerbate student stress, “The student lifestyle also means that university students tend to have a poorer diet and maintain poorer sleep patterns. Then, of course, there is the stress associated with meeting deadlines and keeping up with university work, while at the same time maintaining a social life and possibly working to help manage a tight budget.”

How can we deal with these stresses?

Now we all need to find a way to combat stress, so we’re here to give you some advice to help find your zen and not let your degree have you pulling your hair out. 

Here are our top pieces of advice:

1. Evaluate your lifestyle – whilst pulling all-nighters and chugging red bull to meet deadlines might seem your only way of getting through, it’s likely to be causing you more stress. Getting enough sleep and having a healthy diet is essential.

2. The old saying of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is a piece of advice to live by if you’re a student. Speaking to a friend, a family member or a counsellor at your university can really help you when it comes to stress. Bottling up emotion or feeling like you’re the only one suffering can be remedied by opening up to someone.

3. Find a healthy outlet. Going to the gym or playing sports is a highly effective way of helping you cope. Not only will it give your mind something other than your degree to focus on, but releasing endorphins will make you feel happier.

4. Don’t overwork yourself and manage your time better. Working shorter bursts of more focused time can benefit you much more than long hours with no breaks. Giving yourself time to re-energise and refresh your mind is vital, so organise your time with achievable slots of studying, then allow your brain to rest.

5. Rationalise your thought process. When stressed our mind likes to go into overdrive and exacerbate the pressures or struggles we’re facing. Learn how to rationalise your cognitions and stay in a positive frame of mind. 

Stressing over money? Here are some tips for the financial worriers:

1. Create a budget. The most obvious piece of advice, but often the hardest to stick to. A lot of our stress is caused by feeling out of control of the situation, so when you can figure out what you can realistically spend each week, it’ll help your sense of control. 

2. Recognise what everyday items can be changed or sacrificed. Switching to an own brand at the supermarket, choosing to cook at home rather than order a takeaway or finding a dupe for a particular makeup or haircare product are simple ways to cut costs.

3. Use an online banking app to track your outgoings directly on your phone. This will help you have a more informed idea of what your spending is, rather than waiting until you go to check your balance.

4. Consider a part-time job. If you feel comfortable enough to designate an 8-hour shift once a week to bring in some extra cash, go for it. Working at a campus shop or bar will also help meet you people at your university outside of your normal circle. 

5. Don’t make comparisons. As with any feeling of anxiety or stress, constantly comparing ourselves to our peers won’t help the situation. So if someone in your lecture is constantly splurging with no cares in the world, don’t feel disheartened, they’re definitely in the minority as a student.

Words by Sophie Proctor

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