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Student tips on overcoming stress

"go with the flow when things happen, especially when they are out of your hands" (Jayne Keyes)

Contents: Main problems   Some general advice   Confidence poem   Essays   Family life and study   Know yourself   Too much work   Take time to play   Breathe Deep and Smile   Exercise and Yoga   Deal with it before it gets too much   What to do if it all gets too much

Main Problems and Main Solutions

Many students identified their workload and managing their time as the main cause of stress. See the advice on Time Management

Some general advice

Stress among students is common for many different reasons. Three common causes are:

  • Intense work-loads needing completing in a short amount of time

  • Guilt and worry because you feel that you are neglecting one or two modules in order to keep up with or complete another

  • Not understanding a particular issue or requirement and not being able to find someone who is able to help.
A few of the methods I use to reduce the stress in these matters are:
  • Designing a study timetable in correlation with submission and deadline dates, to help plan the work and keep up with all my modules.

  • Designing charts on Excel to map out the deadline and submission dates. I pin this on a wall to be able to see easily what needs to be completed each week.

  • Trying to keep up with the reading requirements and pacing myself to make steady progress.

  • Trying to spend some time on all three of the modules every week, so as not to get far behind on any of them.

  • If having problems with understanding something, keep asking for help. I try not to give up asking when the first or second tutor cannot help, but to find out from them who will be able to help.

Lack of self-confidence and not knowing anyone can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Anxiety at the thought of approaching others may block the ability to make friends, but it is surprising how approachable and friendly most people are. When giving group or partner work in seminars etc, get chatting to others in the group. By talking about the work that has been given, the conversation often leads to personal situations and can slip easily into friendships. Make time, if possible, to be able to go for coffee after a seminar, be open to meeting new people and invite others who are on their own to join in the conversation. Others will introduce their friends and the amount of people that are then known or are familiar will grow.

Lack of self-confidence in work, and a lack of belief in the ability to produce adequate results seems to be common among students. This is especially true for those who have only just entered university. The structure is completely different from what most people are used to, and it is centred on autonomous learning, as opposed to being taught by a teacher.

If the work is submitted anyway, no matter how bad it is perceived to be, feedback on strengths and weaknesses will be given, and this develops the student's ability to know what to improve. If it is not submitted, feedback cannot be given.

If particularly unsure of a piece of work, it is possible to ask a friendly tutor to take a look at it and give some helpful tips. When reading, always take brief (or bullet-point) notes for easy retrieval of information, and jot down the title of the book that the notes came from so that they can be referred to when more depth is needed. The more something is done, the easier it becomes, and learning from past mistakes and understanding one's own weaknesses enables improvement.

Confidence poem

Walk tall,
Carrying your imaginary cardboard crown on your head.
Cardboard is light:
So are your steps through the sparkling light.

Walk tall.
Only you can see your crown. Carry it proud.
You will not fall.
Imagine the crowd smiling at your cardboard crown.

Walk tall.
Rumble your laughter deep in your tummy.
Do not mumble your joy.
Walk with the pace of life. Laugh when it's funny.


My advice to future students to try and avoid stress is that to leave yourself plenty of time to research and plan your essay if you want to pass. I found I was stressed due to lack of planning and not enough knowledge about my subject.

Family life and study

Stress for students is not just down to one thing. For example, most of the time students worry about meeting deadline dates. We are told that to prevent this stress we should be more organised. But this is easier said than done when so many students have to deal with family life as well as work and study.

It is a lot to deal with all at once. Coping on a day-to-day basis is difficult, but my survival strategies are:

  • drawing up a rota and sticking by it.

  • Trying not to overload myself with unnecessary things.

  • Taking time out for myself whenever I can. Remember, the brain needs the rest from time to time.

My method of reducing stress, anxiety or low feelings is to talk. I would advise talking to a good friend or even a counsellor. Sometimes it helps to express feelings of anxiety. Never feel ashamed of expressing these feelings as we are all humans and we all have feelings. I usually express how I feel in general.

Another method is to sit back and think about how many people have not achieved what I have achieved so far. I think about how far I have come and tell myself I can do it. So far it has worked for me and I feel good about it. That is what picks me up when I start to feel low.

If you have children, looking at them, thinking about their lives and about what you are doing to improve all your lives, can give you motivation to carry on with study.

Tips on family time management

Know yourself

I believe stress is often related to a lack of self confidence. Although exams and deadlines can put a lot of pressure on students, a person who feels sure about his knowledge and skills should be able to handle it without experiencing any major problem. I can cope with pressure most of the time. Probably running out of time is the only thing which can stress me. I believe a student should always be aware that:
  • no piece of work is ever perfect.

  • the mark will somehow reflect the nature of the work produced.
If a person is able to assess the quality of the work he or she produces, then stress will cease to be a serious problem.

Too much work

I find the most stressful part of studying that so much work is required on different modules that it is hard to focus. Focusing on one subject and trying to forget about the others for that day relieved a lot of stress for me.

Take time to play

The best way of coping with stress, anxiety or low feelings is to engage yourself in your favourite activities. I enjoy going to the cinema, keeping myself busy on the computer and doing exercise. Activities like this help me keep my mind off stressful events.

I play the music of my choice.

Three ways to cope with stress or depression are:

I have found physical exercise is the best way to reduce stress. But, in practice, I tend to out and socialize with friends, as I am not motivated enough to go out and exercise on my own.

Breathe Deep and Smile

Those with big problems of coping with stress or anxiety etc.. should take deep breaths in and out to calm themselves down and to relax as well. You should take short walks to or around town for some fresh air. This will give the mind a clear start and oxygen to the mind.

If depression or anxiety or low self-esteem is stopping you, you should think of something that makes you happy, like happy memories. Try to talk to people who understand you and your problem.

Think of yourself and not others if stress is stopping you. You need to get on with your work and do not worry about what people say because they are probably jealous of something about you that you cannot see for yourself.

Remember to eat as well.

Think of what you can be after graduating after studying for a excellent grade for yourself.

Exercise and Yoga

I deal with stress through exercise and yoga. These are very relaxing both physically and mentally and they also help to keep my mind off my problems. Yoga and aeorobics exercise are very good methods of coping with stress. I do these exercise classes and they are meditative and I feel very good each time I do them.

I would also say that counselling and socialising are effective in reducing stress, as they are very comforting.

Other ways reducing stress are through complimentary therapies such as acupuncture. I have not tried acupuncture but I have heard that it is a very good cure for stress.

Students who experience stress should try these methods of reducing stress, one of them will surely work for them.

Deal with it before it gets too much

People who find it difficult to deal with stress can develop more severe reactions such as panic attacks, fatigue states, depression and anxiety. This is particularly likely if there are extra stress, like money worries.

It is important to deal with minor stresses before they become major. Do something about your minor worries and ask for help. Develop group and peer networks and find people who can be sounding boards for ideas.

It is important to allow time to do tasks, rather than risk last minute panics that can cause stress and poor functioning.

It is important to remember that everyone is in the same boat, and of the hundreds of students in the university there are always going to be people worse off

What to do if it all gets too much

If a student has developed a stressful anxiety, depression or just lack of self-confidence reaching to a point where it is stopping him from studying, I would advise him to take a break and relax. Even take a holiday, if possible. Go out and socialise with friend and relatives in order to stimulate your lifestyle, and try to take it easier. If possible seek for counselling.

I think students who find their feelings prevent them from studying should take a good time off for themselves and relax first. Then they should think of a way that suits them best to carry on their studies.

If it is bad enough to stop you working, I recommend talking with your family and friends about your feelings. The worst thing to do would be to simply ignore the feelings, and allow them to interfere with academic success. Also, a meeting with your tutor might allay some of the anxiety. If the stress becomes totally over-whelming, then professional counselling might be helpful as well.

If a student reaches the point where stress is stopping him or her studying, I would suggest counselling. I say this because if you have friends and family around you, to support you, and it doesn't help then maybe counselling is the only option. I also understand that some people do not have support in any form, so counselling would be ideal, at least that way you have at least one person to talk to and this in turn could be a positive direction.

The contributors to this page include:

Helen Awor, Leena Chawda, Leona Cox, Eden Fekade, Pavan Gora, Victoria Guy, Gemma Heneghan, Albert Hofer, Grace Kanu, Stephen King, Lisa Kaye, Jayne Keyes, Pavan Kular, Choy-ying Liu Charmen Menzie, Alice Ranson, Jon Reavey, Ashley Tener, Daniel Worley,

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See also tips from students on:

Career Skills



Exam stress

Making friends

Maths anxiety