Top 10 Ways to Reduce Stress as a Student

Feeling worried? Here are our top tips for staying stress free at university as a student.

No-one is immune to stress. Whether it’s fast-approaching deadlines, financial issues, troubles at home or social anxiety, it’s easy to feel smothered under the weight of your worries. If you’re struggling to cope, you aren’t alone.

According to a recent NUS survey, 87% of students said they experienced stress, while a staggering 77% said they felt anxious and a further 48% said they had experienced panic. Unfortunately, most students don’t arrive at uni equipped with a plan for how to deal with stress. 

As part of National Stress Awareness Day, we’ve spoken to student mental health specialists to provide 10 tips for reducing stress while you’re at uni...

⏰ Get on top of time management 

Too much to do and not enough time. We’ve all been there – in fact, poor time management is one of the primary causes of student stress. If balancing your coursework, social life and potentially even a job has become too overwhelming, it’s time to take a step back and make a schedule.

It may pain you to do so, but creating a written schedule will help you to visualise your tasks and break them down into manageable chunks. Just remember to be realistic about your timings, and allow yourself time every day to relax, unwind, exercise or socialise – whatever helps you feel better. It’s also a good idea to divide your work by order of priority to help you tackle the most urgent tasks first. 

🏃‍♀️ Exercise

Not only does exercise improve your overall health, it also has the power to bust your stress and boost your mood. Whether you prefer running, dancing, cycling or team sports, making time for some vigorous exercise several times a week will help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good chemicals, called endorphins. 

Several studies have also shown how physical activity can serve as a time-out or break from your stressors. If you’ve been staring at a blank screen for an hour and are getting worked up or you’ve had a difficult phone-call with your family regarding finances, switch the world off and focus on your fitness for an hour. It won’t make the problems disappear, but you’ll be in a better mental state to tackle them later.

💤 Prioritise sleep

When it comes to exams, many graduates can tell you stories about all-night study sessions fuelled on energy drinks and junk food. However, keeping a healthy sleep routine is paramount to self-care and stress-reduction. Taking time to relax before you go to sleep can improve the quality of your sleep, as will sticking to a pattern of sleep/wake up times each day. With the exception of nights out, try to get at least seven to eight hours every night. If you struggle to switch off, try taking a long bath or reading in bed to relax your brain before sleep.

✅ Make a start on coursework the day its assigned

Deadlines always seem like a distant worry for Future You – until the present catches up and the essay is due tomorrow. With the clock ticking and the pressure piling up, stress becomes inevitable. Do your future self a favour and make a start on coursework when the topic is fresh in your memory. After a lecture or a tutorial, book out an hour in the library or a quiet study space where you can put your thoughts on paper. Think progress, not perfection: this is just a case of making a start, so the task doesn’t seem so daunting. And hey, if you feel inspired, keep going!

📣 Speak to student support

At every university, there are staff members trained and dedicated to helping students who are struggling to cope. Don’t ever assume your problem is too small, or that you are less deserving of help than others; your mental health is so important, and it can make such a difference just to talk to someone. The sense of relief you get when you vocalise your stress can drain some of the pain that you’ve been holding within. Plus, a fresh perspective from a professional can help you to see things differently. 

🧘‍♀️ Make time for mindfulness

Mindfulness is an extremely effective coping mechanism for managing stress. Prescribed by doctors to improve patients’ mental and physical health, mindfulness has been proven to decrease anxiety and lower your stress levels. You don’t have to be a master yogi or spend your loan on expensive colouring books – just take some time each day to practice guided meditation or deep breathing. 

Apps like Calm and Headspace make mindfulness accessible – above all, however, you need to carve out some time from your student schedule for a little bit of peace, quiet and calm. When life gets too much, find somewhere that you can be alone to re-centre yourself and focus on the bigger picture.

☕️ Go easy on caffeine

We get it. One more coffee will help power you through the final paragraphs of that essay, or help you stay alert in class. Just be aware that although caffeine injects adrenaline into your system, the boost you get is only temporary. The more you have, the more you’re likely to crash and feel fatigued later on. 

For students suffering from anxiety, the jittery effects of coffee on your body can stimulate your “fight or flight” reactions which only serve to make the stress worse. One is fine, but if you still want a hot drink, follow your first coffee up with a chamomile tea. This herbal infusion contains an antioxidant called apigenin which binds to receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety.

💸 Get help with your finances

In a survey of more than 2,000 undergraduates by Which? University, 15% of students ranked managing their finances as the most stressful aspect of university. That’s understandable: bus tickets, food shops, beer money, course materials – it all adds up. 

Instead of keeping it in, talk to your dedicated support staff. They may be able to help you secure additional funding, and they’ll certainly be able to provide advice to help you manage your money and make it go further. Getting a part-time job could be a solution, as long as you’re confident you’ll be able to manage your time and stay on top of your studies. 

For more tips on saving money at uni, have a read of our dedicated blog

👯‍♀️ Lean on your support network

When stress builds in your head, it can quickly feel like you’re clutching on to a raft in choppy waters and struggling to keep afloat. That’s where a call to home can really help. Don’t forget that you have a network of people who love and care about you and are just a text or call away. 

You don’t have to go through this alone, and there’s no shame in admitting you’re having a hard time. The catharsis that comes from talking to someone who knows you and understands can lift a weight off your shoulders. The stress won’t melt away entirely, but it should hopefully feel a little easier to manage. 

🌱 Don’t bite off more than you can chew

You may want to join several societies and take a committee role or throw yourself into multiple sports teams while at uni. Maybe you want to be a straight-A joint-honours student with a part-time job and a thriving social life. Just remember, if you take on too much, you’ll start to burn out fast.  

Everyone has a limit as to how many responsibilities and commitments they can take in their week. If your schedule has become manic and you’re feeling overwhelmed, accept that something needs to go. Our advice would be to keep fitness and study time as a priority, as these two will at least help to lift your mood and ease your stress.

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