Higher education study has been proven to be a source of stress and anxiety for learners. It’s a challenging time as many seek to define the rest of their lives with the studies that they do. In addition to this, the recent societal changes, the pandemic and adjustments to all education have meant that there is a great deal of uncertainty as to the entire university experience. Will classes be remote, hybrid or online in totality? Will there be similar employment and job opportunities when the study is completed and how well will the student do in exams and on the course as a whole? These are a lot of things to think about and the modern university or college graduate student needs to find useful ways to deal with and overcome such stress and anxiety.
There is no way to avoid the stress and although many promote stress avoidance behavior, it is proven that it is best to deal with and reduce and relieve stress than to attempt to avoid it. This article will provide some tips as to how this can be done and why it should be done for students of all ages, levels and subjects.
The first step, however, is to repeat the mantra that, you can only change what you can. Then do some of the stress relieving and reducing strategies that are noted and discussed below.
Play a Sport or do some Exercise
Playing sport is one of the recognized means of dealing with heightened stress levels. Sport and physical activity boost your overall physical health as well as your mental health and the time spent with others additionally serves to make you happier. Any physical activity also serves to boost feel good endorphins. Often referred to as the sportsman’s high, these endorphins can be generated from any aerobic exercise and will serve to make you feel better about yourself, regardless of all the studying, assignments and imminent deadlines that you have. It is clear that after a fast run or sports game with friends you can actually forget the stresses of the day.
Physical activity and a sport will also prepare the body to better deal with flight fight responses and as such will be able to prepare the body to deal with stress.
Just ensure that before you undertake any exercise regimes or do strenuous exercise that you have consulted you doctor and are clear as to what your body can take.
Integrate with the local community
Prior to the pandemic there were a number of adult students experiencing social isolation and loneliness. This has arguably been increased during the pandemic and has affected students at colleges and universities around the country to a large extent. Stress and anxiety are further caused by the fact that many higher education students move away from home or at least live away from home. This elicits feelings of isolation which can be overcome by being part of a community where you study or attend university. In this regard a number of professional online nursing programs with placements encourage their learners to integrate with the community to learn about community health and well-being. For many similar professions getting to know the local community presents a way to de-stress and feel less isolated.
There are also a number of universities and colleges that pride themselves on their community engagement programs, these allow students to do academic research and work that relates to real life issues in the surrounding communities.
Feeling part of something will go a long way to reducing anxiety and stress, allowing students to perform better.
Have a hobby
Hobbies bring a lot of fun and happiness for those that partake in something that they enjoy doing. The stress is part of student life, and the aim is to be able to deal with it and finding healthy means to deal with these anxieties. Hobbies are proven to do just this and allow those who participate in them to relax, recuperate and rest your mind and body. The top hobbies for stress relief are:
- Collections: regardless of what you like to collect, being able to spend time collating them and storing them makes for an interesting pastime. Collections can be as simple as you want them to be and don’t need to be expensive at all.
- Coloring: Adult coloring books have taken off in the last few years and are terrific way to reduce stress and can be therapeutic.
- Music: Listening to music is one of the easiest ways to relax.
- Take care of plants: Indoor plants are all the rage and can be a fantastic way to watch something grow and develop.
A lot of hobbies also produce and end product and as such create a sense of achievement when done.
Know what your career plan and study pathway is
Having a clear well-defined plan for your studies and defining a cogent study pathway as well as a possible career pathway will create a sense of calm and certainty with regards to the ongoing studies. Keep it simple and have interim on the way points of achievement that you can congratulate yourself on and celebrate.
Meditation and mindfulness
One of the best ways to remain calm under pressure is through meditation and remaining mindful of the present. Mindfulness allows you to think about the stress and respond rather than reacting. It can be associated with practiced and intentional breathing which links these practices to meditation. Any means of being able to consider the cause of stress and then think of a considered mitigating response is the best way to go and being relaxed, and in the present will allow you to do this.
Stick to a schedule
The main reason as aforementioned for student stress has been noted as poor time management and the only way to deal with this is to have a detailed, set schedule. There must also be clear breaks for recreation to avoid the guilt of partying and binge fun. Student life is very much about the fun and social interaction, but you must also plan for the hard academic work that will be needed to get you through the course.
Follow a balanced meal plan and eat as healthily as possible. A healthy diet builds resilience for your body and will go a long way to ensuring that you are able to deal with stress and uncertainty. Eating well is not always easy, nor will it always be cheap, but it will go a long way to ensuring that you are in the best physical condition that you can be in. Keep nutritious food on hand and try by all means to eat at home as this is proven to reduce the unhealthy food intake associated with eating takeaways and eating out.
Get a part time job
This will help with expenses and serve to reduce financial stress but be sure that your grades are where they need to be before you look to take on more responsibility. Having a job apart from your studies is a wonderful way to meet people and keep engaged, but it shouldn’t take you away from the main reason you are in higher education.
Study time management
Use the available apps and software to manage your assignment submissions and lecture attendance. Having a Gannt chart for all your assignments and submissions is the best way to ensure that you don’t miss a deadline. Being able to manage your time and planning what you have to do is critical for achieving your goals. Several graduate studies have shown that effective time management is responsible for greater academic performance and lower levels of anxiety. The manner in which students control their time is accepted as the defining aspect of how well they will do academically.
Getting enough sleep is not normally at the tip of the list of things to do for students and those working through the night to meet assignment deadlines. However, this is one of the key aspects of being able to perform at your best. The occasional late night and even a few consecutive late nights over the weekend isn’t really going to adversely affect your sleep patterns and cause increased stress. However, long term poor sleep habits and insufficient sleep over the long term will definitely affect how well you do academically. Increased rest and relaxation are the perfect way to calm the mind and body and ensure that your brain gets enough rest.
The stresses of higher education are real and unavoidable, whether it’s the stress of securing research funding or just getting thorough your first year at university. There will always be stress and as such it is best to prepare to deal with or strategize around these stresses. The ten tips and guidance provided in this article are all tried and tested and can be used to both relieve and reduce stress related to higher education and study.