University can be a stressful experience, as well as being fun and exciting. You may feel stressed about starting university, exams, coursework deadlines, living with people you do not know, or thinking about the future.
Stress is a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. In small amounts it can be good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, such as during 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
There are lots of possible signs of stress.
Stress can make you feel:
- like you cannot enjoy yourself
- worried a lot of the time
You may start to:
- have sleep problems (insomnia)
- find it hard to concentrate
- bite your nails, pick your skin or grind your teeth
- snap at people
- feel short of breath or breathe very fast
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.
It might also help to:
- Work out what it is that's making you feel stressed. For example, is it exams, money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you're under.
- Try to have a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleep, be physically active, cut down on alcohol, and take time to relax as well as working and studying.
- Read about the 5 steps to mental wellbeing.
- Avoid drugs, including lots of caffeine – this can have a negative impact on your stress levels and wellbeing.
- Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
- Try relaxation and breathing exercises.
- Try to plan your time to help you keep track of your work. Break it down into manageable chunks so you can keep up with deadlines.
- Try talking to a friend, tutor or someone in your family about your stress.
- Read about tips on preparing for exams
- For more tips on beating stress, check out these 10 stress busters.
- Find out more about anxiety, fear and panic.
- The free mental wellbeing audio guides may help you when your mood is low or you're facing an anxious time in your life.
- Get advice about dealing with exam stress from Young Minds.
- Watch mental health and self-care videos for young people on the Every Mind Matters website.
When to get help for stress
You may want to consider getting help for stress if:
- you're struggling to cope with stress
- things you're trying yourself are not helping
- stress is affecting your life or university work
You could try speaking to friends, family or your university tutor. A GP is also a good place to start and they can help you with advice or access to treatments if you need them.
Find out more about counselling for student mental health problems.
In this video, a GP describes what stress is, the physical and mental effects it can have and when to seek help.
Media review due: 4 October 2024