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Student stress

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.

But if you're feeling very stressed or feel you cannot manage stress, it can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It can also affect your academic performance.

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:

  • irritable
  • anxious
  • 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

More information

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.

Video: stress

In this video, a GP describes what stress is, the physical and mental effects it can have and when to seek help.

Media last reviewed: 4 October 2021
Media review due: 4 October 2024

Page last reviewed: 14 March 2023
Next review due: 14 March 2026