Student stress: self-help tips

Starting university can be a stressful experience. How you cope with the stress is the key to whether or not it develops into a health problem.

Watch a video on how to cope with stress

Stress is a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. In small amounts it's good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, including in exams.

Leaving home to start your studies can involve some stressful changes. These might include moving to a new area, meeting new people and managing on a tight budget.

Signs you might be stressed

The first signs of stress are:

Too much stress can lead to physical and psychological problems, such as:

  • anxiety – feelings ranging from uneasiness to severe and paralysing panic
  • dry mouth
  • churning stomach
  • palpitations – pounding heart
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • depression

Things that can help with stress

Short periods of stress are normal, and can often be resolved by something as simple as completing a task – which cuts down your workload – or by talking to others and taking time to relax.

Some of these suggestions might help:

  • Work out what it is that's making you anxious. For example, is it exams, or money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you're under.
  • Try to have a more healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, cut down on alcohol, and spend some time socialising as well as working and studying.
  • Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
  • Learn to relax. If you have a panic attack or are in a stressful situation, try to focus on something outside yourself, or switch off by watching TV or chatting to someone.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises may help.
  • Try to resolve personal problems by talking to a friend, tutor or someone in your family.
  • Read about how to cope with the stress of exams.

For more tips on beating stress, check out these 10 stress busters.

The NHS Choices Moodzone has eight free mental wellbeing podcasts or audio guides that may help you when your mood is low or you're facing an anxious time in your life.

This anxiety podcast tackles stress that arises around revision time and exams.

Professional help for student stress

Long-term stress and anxiety is difficult to resolve by yourself, and it's often best for you to seek help. 

Don't struggle alone. Anxiety can seriously affect your academic performance, and that's not only distressing for you, but means a lot of wasted effort.

Find out more about tackling student mental health issues.

Stress

An expert explains what stress is, the physical and mental effects of being stressed, when it becomes a problem and when to seek help.

Media last reviewed: 12/05/2016

Next review due: 12/10/2018

Page last reviewed: 31/12/2016

Next review due: 31/12/2019

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