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Coping With Stress At University

Jul 1, 2008
Stress affects us all at some points in our lives. It can come from many different areas, finance, relationships, work, studying and a variety of other forms. At certain times, pressure can build up and stress can be difficult to deal with.

For young academics, the effects of stress can be felt from a tender age. Pressure to do well in exams, GCSE's and A Levels to gain a place at a good university can have a serious impact on the health of students. The fear of being a failure can override rational thoughts and lead to unhealthy behaviour and bad coping mechanisms.

Whilst studying in school and sixth form the main causes of stress are coping with work load, worry about university entry and anxieties branching from relationships with friends, family and girlfriends or boyfriends.

Once at university, new pressures develop as students have to learn to manage independently with finance, new environments, a different approach to learning and the loss of their childhood comfort zones.

Along with many other problems, it has been said that the major source of stress for university students are debt and having too little money. Around half of the UK's students work part-time to help pay their way through university. Most institutions advise not to work whilst studying and that if it really is necessary, to only work a maximum of 16 hours per week.

For students living in expensive cities like London, who don't receive financial help from their families, part-time work is the only option to keep their heads above water. The problems that arise from this burden can have a domino effect. Having to juggle the responsibility of a job, stay committed to a degree, have a healthy social life and find time to rest can add to the original source of stress.

Everyone has different levels of stress tolerability. It is linked to your personality, diet, emotional maturity and up-bringing. We have different methods of dealing with stress too. Some one who is more prone to stress and anxiety may have more trouble dealing with it. It is common to try to avoid the source of the problem and use something else to mask it.

For example, a student who has being suffering financially may take on a part time job in a bar to help pay the rent. This brings a new realm into the student's life; they are meeting new people with different focuses and pastimes. Some of these will be beneficial to the student but there is also the chance that these new people will cause more of a distraction from the students main focus; the degree. Not only this, the job will take over time in the student's life that should be used for socialising, resting or studying.

As mentioned above, when there is a pressing concern; an essay deadline for instance, it is quite natural for a stressed person to use avoidance as a coping mechanism. In the case of a student with less time on their hands, the essay ignored but the stress of it will continue to prey on the students mind. It seems easier to avoid doing the university work than to attempt it and fail.

There are two factors here that are diminishing the students self esteem, the pressure to afford to be at university and the pressure to achieve what should be achievable whilst suffering from fear of failure that has been induced by the financial stress, lack of rest and general chaotic lifestyle that a poor student has to endure.

Avoidance only complicates and feeds the stress into a downwards spiral. The problem has to be dealt with at some point and leaving it to build up and explode at the last minute is much more stressful than doing it bit by bit over time. The only effective technique is to confront the source of the issue and resolve it. To start with, don't bottle up, talk to friends and family about problems. Everyone suffers the same concerns and feels the same problems but on different levels.

Many people who find it hard to deal with stress bury their heads in the sand and hope their problems will go away. It is becoming more and more common for young people to turn to drugs and alcohol to assist in this oblivion technique. Intoxication, whilst it can be fun is certainly not healthy especially if substances are being used to cope. In most circumstances it will only lead to further financial, emotional and academic stress and anxiety. Instead, a healthy relationship should be built with alcohol and drinking as a reward for finishing coursework would be wise.

Young people dealing with the stresses of student life can also be prone to developing eating disorders as a form of coping. Anorexia, Bulimia and over-eating are all ways to exert control of life when everything else seems to be chaotic and out of hand. Again, this will only cause the student further difficulties. It is very hard to overcome eating disorders and the disease has a knock on affect on all areas of the person's life. Eating three meals a day and having a healthy diet is very important for a healthy mind and healthy body.

A recent survey of student mental health showed a drastic increase in the amount of students suffering with emotional problems, anxiety and depression. More and more students are seeking counselling for their problems and 10% of those students are suicidal. It seems to be a very dark statistic but it is important to highlight the seriousness of the issue. For many people, student years are the times of their lives, but for those who find it difficult to cope, it can be very very hard.

To prevent some of the troubles that may be encountered at university, prospective and new students should do a little preparation and research. The most important thing to consider is the course itself. As soon as there is a timetable available, it should be studied and a realistic life timetable be made so it is known how much time is going to be available to study, work, rest and play. Keeping on top of workload is key to having an enjoyable time at university.

Making the best out of home life is also very important. It is advisable to most students to take a place in student accommodation for the first year. It is important to make friends and to be eased into university life this way. Living in private accommodation can isolate people from other students. If it isn't possible to live in halls then it would be good to consider joining a sports team or club to integrate in that way.

It is important to make the most of the help that is available to students. There is extra funding available from charities and organisations that many students aren't aware of. For students who struggle with finance and have emotional difficulty there is a lot of help at hand. Student welfare officers, student counselling services and the students union are there to support all sorts of issues.

Stresses and problems aside, university life is over all very rewarding and very worthwhile. Skills learnt and friends made at university shape lives and build careers. There are plenty of good times to be had despite the pressures.

More advice on student lifestyle can be found on the Student Book website.
About the Author
Student Book is a website for prospective and current students. It offers a university comparison tool and a wealth of information on the ins and outs of applying to university. The site is also a guide to student life with advice on finance, welfare, study skills, accommodation and a lot more. These are helpful, relevant and entertaining articles aimed at students and future students.
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