Coping with stress

New places, new subjects and new challenges are all very exciting but can lead to student life being stressful sometimes.

According to a student survey 53 per cent of students experienced increased levels of stress since starting university (Student Living Report, 2002) and for some this stress is more prolonged. Stress is a natural reaction to situations where you feel out of control. This can happen due to concerns over money, the pressure of coursework and assessments, relationship or housing worries.

Your experiences

Hayley told us about her experience.

"All was going so well for me; I settled into halls and found some great mates but then half way through it all changed! Due to flooding in the halls I was living in I had to change houses and starting again was very stressful. I found myself sharing with new people, discovering I could not easily find my friends or lectures anymore and struggled to find my way around. On top of the pressures of my coursework I couldn't cope with all the extra things to think about - then I got flu, missed a deadline and ended up really stressed. To cope I turned to my school friends who I emailed lots, I also made an appointment with my tutor, and got in touch with the Student disability adviser who easily sorted out some mobility training so I felt confident in my new routes around campus. I can now look back knowing I survived the experience and even feel proud of the skills I learned along the way but at the time it was really hard going."

Tips for handling stress

With exams and dissertations looming, we offer some tips for dealing with stress and some sources of support for those of you who find you can't shake off that stressed feeling.

Get informed

Getting up to speed on the most common problems associated with student stress can be a start in dealing with problems that are getting you down. It is comforting to know that you are not the only person feeling this way.

If you are at college or university don't forget you have access to a free and confidential counseling service which is there to support you while at college or university. This can be a great place to go for some additional support when things get tough especially when you first start university and are coping with lots of new changes and also around exam time.

Panic attacks are also very common around examination time. If you are concerned about this or want to know a bit more you can find further information at www.mind.org.uk or visit your university counseling service.

Everyday stress

Some stressful situations are hard to avoid, and if you are experiencing the stress of multiple commitments, a challenging workload or house share issues there are a number of ways you can help alleviate stress.

Your experiences

Michelle has this suggestion.

"Writing down how I was feeling often helped me. I keep a journal everyday and sometimes I would write letters to my friend about how I was feeling. I also took up yoga and made sure I was eating a good diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Deciding to stick to activities I enjoy whatever else was going on in my life really made a difference. Whatever else was going on, nothing would interfere with my weekly de stress swimming session."

Other kinds of stress

Sometimes stress is not to do with everyday events but is connected to an issue relating to your physical or mental health. Chatting to your GP about your feelings of stress can help work out its causes.

You can also contact the RNIB Emotional Support Service (ESS) which is a confidential telephone support service. ESS offers advice and support to help you to identify what you need and the best way to get it as well as one-to-one telephone counseling.

You can contact ESS through our Helpline (0303 123 9999) and ask to be referred to the Emotional Support Service or you can email us at ess@rnib.org.uk.

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