For most of us, university and post-secondary life are some of the best years we will experience as young adults. It was my fresh start, in a new city, and the time to reinvent myself! I had filled my head with all these goals I hoped to achieve, and the life I would have out of my first year. What I had failed to anticipate was the huge amount of stress that I would feel, and the changes that came with it.
Whether you’re new to university, or ankles deep in what seems to be an endless amount of work, university stress is something that will affect almost all of us; it’s pretty much inevitable. But stress isn’t always a bad sign. For me, it was a sign that I cared about everything on my mind, and sometimes we need a reminder of why we chose to put ourselves through sleepless nights and anxious thoughts. When I looked at my stress for motivation, I tried to make changes that would help me through the tough times, and in turn, made me be a better version of myself. Here are 5 tips and tricks I use to help reduce my feelings of stress:
1. Readjust goals as necessary, but don’t forget to keep track of areas that can only be compromised to an extent.
Readjusting goals is something I became very familiar with in university, and it’s something I do very frequently. Don’t be afraid to change your route to success, as long as it doesn’t compromise your end goal. Here are some of my examples:
I wanted to take part in *a few too many* clubs, so I decided to focus on only those I was really passionate about to make time for my other commitments.
I learned to be more forgiving with my grades, and understand that university is a huge learning curve! With practice, I was able to set realistic goals for myself.
2. Tackle the stress head-on by figuring out the root cause of it.
It’s important to take a step back and ask yourself, “Why am I feeling stressed, and what can I do now to relieve some of it?” I felt stress from having to change my goals constantly and feeling like I was slipping further and further away from the goals I had initially planned for myself. Here are some of my examples:
I was stressed about my grades slipping, so I re-evaluated the way I studied and made adjustments.
I was stressed about managing my time with extracurriculars and schoolwork, so I started to use apps like Google Calendar to better manage my time.
I wanted to make time for friends and family, and that conflicted with how much time I felt I needed to dedicate to school. I soon realized it was equally as important to dedicate time for my social life and I worked out a healthy balance.
3. Find an area of university life that you can create a positive association with.
A lot of stress is harboured mentally, so when we create constant negative emotions around what we typically associate with university, it can be hard to find motivation to keep going. I found my source of positivity through the extracurriculars I took part in and the wonderful people I met. This positive association gave me something to look forward to and lessened the impact of the negative feelings I had towards the stress I was feeling from other aspects of university life.
4. Find hobbies you enjoy, that take your mind off of university life.
It’s important to take breaks from your life at school, whether that be to start a passion project or spend some time with your family and friends.
I love to crochet, and I’d often work on a small project while listening to a podcast, or even a youtube video to take my mind off of what I’m working on at the moment.
Taking a walk in the park to get some fresh air is a great way to reset your mind before diving right back in to work.
Cooking and baking has always helped me relieve some stress. After all, what can’t a pan of brownies fix?
5. Don’t forget to re-evaluate your mental health whenever you’re feeling stressed about a situation.
If there’s one thing I can emphasize from this list, it's this. Mental health in university is extremely important to take care of, and it's especially important to consider in times of stress. Stress can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, loneliness, difficulty thinking, irritability and more often than not, feelings of guilt1. Stress can also manifest itself in physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches, muscle tension and nausea1. Ways you can take care of your mental health include the following:
Talking to those around you that you trust, like friends, family or a counsellor. Talking is a very important first step that may help you to regain emotional confidence to tackle life’s challenges.
Start a journal or diary to put how you’re feeling into words. This can be especially helpful to recognize reasons why you may be feeling stressed and in turn can help you get the help you need.
Find a campus support group that you feel comfortable attending, and take part in discussions surrounding mental health.
Talk to an academic or career advisor at your university to get help in planning out an academic path that works for you.
No matter how big or small the challenge you face may be, you can always find a way to overcome it. University stress will get to us all in one way or another, so remember to be forgiving and take the journey one step at a time.
Wishing you the best of luck for your future endeavours,
CAMH. “Stress.” CAMH, 2020, www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/stress.