The Verse’s Liberty Gatcombe gives us her top tips for handling stress at University and beyond.
It’s something that affects us all differently. Just reading the word makes my body cringe as I remember all the things I need to do.
Stress is often overlooked as something we just need to get over. How many times have you heard the words ‘oh, you’re just stressed.’ Especially as students, people seem to think we have an easy ride. Like we’re on some three year holiday drinking copious amounts of alcohol, eating pizza and not washing for days. Although some of this may not be totally inaccurate, there’s a massive chunk of student life that seems to be forgotten. Deadlines.
Let us not forget the sheer horror of deadlines. Hearing the word makes us grimace; we may as well be paying our rent to the library.
Stress gets to us students too. And it can really take it’s toll mentally and physically. It’s important to know stress can show up in all different ways. Insomnia, hair loss, breakouts and breakdowns. Our bodies can get tight, we can experience digestive issues and for some of us ladies, it can really affect our menstrual cycle. These are all valid symptoms and during times where stress is high, we need to learn to look after ourselves.
I’ve put together a few of my go-to tips that can help ease the pressure when it’s all getting a bit too much.
Before I begin, there is something I want to make very clear. It is ok to prioritise self-care over workload. You’re going to have to trust me on this one. If you burn out, you’re not going to be working to the best of your ability. Look at self-care as a much needed extra-curricular and an investment to your degree/career/life.
Getting stressed means we tend to restrict our breathing. When this happens, we restrict the amount of oxygen that gets into our system and this causes stress in the body, as well as limiting brain function. If you feel yourself tensing up with stress, step away from your books/ laptop/ project, and just focus on breathing. If you’re worried about wasting precious time at the desk, set a timer for 3 – 5 minutes. Concentrate on breathing in fully and out fully. Counting the breaths will help your mind wandering off to deadlines and to-do lists. You can come back to that soon enough; for now just focus purely on drawing the breath in and releasing it out. Even better, take a step outside – the fresh air works wonders on re-booting your concentration levels.
2. Write it down.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed get out a piece of paper and just write down everything that you need to do. No order, just mentally pour it all out. Once it’s all down put it in order of priority. What’s due first? What do you need to do before you can start this piece of work? What books do you need? Are there any emails you can send to make a piece of work clearer or to ease anxieties? Anything and everything that’s causing you to feel stressed, put it down on that bit of paper. Having more a visual plan that you can pin up or stick in your diary enables you to fully focus on one task at a time and get more done!
I know it feels like you are the only person feeling this stressed right now but I promise you, you aren’t. Stress is very good at making us feel isolated but you are surrounded by people who are there with you or have been there millions of times before. This is great because everyone you talk to can offer their own personal advice or just be someone to down a bottle of wine with whilst discussing your sorrows. Isolation and loneliness can open a door to a whole range of nasty emotions you don’t need to deal with right now. Open up and don’t be afraid to be honest. Talking can help get yourself out of your head and back to reality. It can help make sense of things.
4. Move it
There is so much research out there to show physical activity has an incredibly positive impact on our mental health. Now, unfortunately, exercise has got a bit of a bad rep. There seems to be this idea that you’re only doing it right if you’re torturing yourself in the process. That’s not the kind of exercise I’m talking about here. It isn’t about spending hours in a grimy gym crying your way through a circuits class. Just twenty minutes of an exercise that gets your blood pumping, 3-5 times a week is enough to boost your serotonin (your happy hormone). Think about something you would enjoy doing for 20 minutes. Going for a walk, dancing to Beyonce in your room, find a class you can go to with a friend. Think outside the box and have fun with it!
As far as I’m concerned, self-care should be part of your daily routine. At the very least schedule it into your work timetable. When we’re less stressed we’re less likely to get ill, more likely to sleep, and our outlook on life is a lot more positive. We feel strong and can think clearer, making better decisions.
Feel free to get in touch and let me know your top tips for fighting stress. Maybe reach out to a friend who’s having a hard time studying and offer some advice or, even better, spend some time doing something you truly love. Hey, you’re doing great. January is so, so nearly over and who knows – maybe life will start to feel a bit normal again. Until then, remember: you’ve got this!