Written by: Alison McKinley
Studying at a university is an opportunity to get an excellent education and open for yourself, so to speak, the way to life. But it is also a serious stress, a big emotional shake-up for those who just yesterday sat at the desk. Studying is generally considered one of the most powerful stress factors, which is why we decided to talk about why it is stress and how to deal with it.
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Reasons of stress at university
To begin with, we note that academic stress stems from increased intellectual workload and significant changes in the lifestyle of students. And just to cope with stress and increase the body’s resistance, you first need to understand why stress appears at university. If you let this matter take its course, you can create yourself a lot of problems with your health, psyche, and, as a result, with your studies.
Stress appears in students’ lives for completely different reasons. We will not talk about all, but will touch on only the most common.
A change of scenery
Admission to a university is directly related to a change in the environment and social circle, and this is one of the main stress factors that affect the psycho-emotional state of the student. This factor is made up of smaller factors, such as:
- weakening of control and influence on the part of parents and university teachers;
- the need to take care of yourself on your own;
- living in a rented apartment or hostel (when studying in another city);
- change of social circle;
- change of interests;
- misunderstanding with classmates or room/apartment mates;
- financial difficulties.
If a student is not psychologically prepared for such things, a change of environment can unsettle him overnight, making him more vulnerable to the influence of other negative factors.
Mental and physical activity
Admission to a university is, among other things, a sharp increase in workload. These are much larger amounts of information for study, and more intensive classes, and independent searches for knowledge. This also includes worries about future tests and sessions. In addition to this, a violation of the usual schedule should be highlighted.
If mastering any discipline is difficult for a student, the risk of nervous strain increases. And former schoolchildren with the “excellent student” syndrome very often care too much about their reputation and are afraid of not meeting the expectations of others, including parents who want to see their children as perfect students.
If emotional stress is prolonged, it can easily develop into prolonged and even chronic stress. In no case should this be allowed, because to overcome (already treat) stress, professional medical attention may be required.
Above, we have named general stress factors at university, but there are also subjective ones – they concern each student individually. They themselves, as well as their number, are determined by the way of life that a person leads.
Subjective factors include:
- conflicts with teachers;
- conflicts with other students;
- features of personal life;
- improper nutrition;
- inadequate sleep;
- not getting enough rest;
- bad habits (smoking, drinking alcohol, drugs).
The degree of psycho emotional stress arising under the influence of stress depends on the student’s readiness for an independent life, attitude towards learning and the level of his responsibility for what happens to him. It is also influenced by the type of stress one has to deal with at university. This refers to positive and negative stress:
- Positive stress is stress that occurs when a person has a positive experience of getting out of a stressful situation. For example, he successfully solves a problem, resources for solving the problem, support or approval of others.
- Negative stress is stress that occurs when a person cannot cope with a job, complete an assignment, or change a situation. It is this stress that is dangerous and negatively affects the mental and physical condition.
Stages and symptoms of stress
It is quite easy to notice the stress – you just need to catch changes in your state, and they can be of three types, based on the stage of stress:
- Anxiety stage. In response to stressful factors, the human psyche reacts with excitement. Anxiety serves as a signal for the body to mobilize the protective potential. This stage is very easy to spot.
- The stage of resistance. The body comes to a state that allows it to cope with stress on its own. As a rule, this stage does not cause anxiety in a person, especially if he succeeds in solving the problem.
- Exhaustion stage. Stress reaches it if the effect of the stress factor continues for a long time. The body’s reserves are depleted, it becomes more difficult to deal with stress, and ultimately stress completely suppresses a person. Like the first stage, the third stage is very easy to spot.
The stages presented in detail were described in his works by the Canadian researcher Hans Selye back in the middle of the 20th century, but even today this information remains relevant. If the condition begins to correspond to one of the listed stages, it is worth considering whether you are dealing with stress. And you can be sure of this if you pay attention to the symptoms.
Common signs of the effects of stress are:
- poor appetite;
- sleep disturbance;
- deterioration in concentration;
- deterioration in the assimilation of information;
- memory impairment.
All this has a very bad effect on only the well-being of the student, but also on his academic performance. Absolutely all systems of the body are affected, and, as a result, changes occur in all spheres of life.
Consequences of stress at university
Due to stress, the student does not perceive and memorize information poorly, is reluctant to attend classes, ineffectively prepares for exams, and his overall academic performance falls. If a student neglects a healthy lifestyle, drinks a lot of coffee and caffeinated beverages, eats improperly, rests little, etc., the situation is aggravated, which is reflected at the physiological level.
The load on the heart increases, blood pressure rises, and the work of the autonomic system is disrupted. In the case of prolonged stress, vegetative homeostasis is disturbed, over time, blood vessels are destroyed, immunity weakens, which increases the risk of diseases.
Additionally, one can highlight a decrease in self-esteem, a deterioration in mood and well-being. This can lead to the emergence of bad habits and addictions, for example, from cigarettes, alcohol, medications and drugs. This is how a person tries to deal with difficult circumstances.
Multiple scientific studies indicate that even after stressors cease to act, the body and psyche take a long time to recover and return to normal. And this is another good reason why neither development nor, moreover, aggravation of stress should be allowed.
How to deal with stress at university
The extent to which a student’s stress resistance is developed is of paramount importance both for the educational process and for the life of a person entering the adult world. Naturally, it is practically impossible to influence the conditions accompanying learning, and therefore it is much more effective not to “fight the system”, but to look for ways to normalize the mental state.
Behavior modification is one of the most effective ways to deal with stress at university revising and changing your attitude to what is happening, getting rid of worries about what cannot be influenced, mastering ways to get out of the negative. And for this, psychologists recommend several techniques:
- Keeping a diary. It has long been proven that it is very useful to transfer experiences, thoughts and emotions to paper. This allows you to get rid of negativity and unload the psyche. It is also useful to analyze the records to understand the causes of your conditions and find ways to solve problems.
- Sports activities. Exercise allows you to feel much better mentally and physically. Workout, exercise, jogging and other similar activities are an opportunity to release excess energy and calm down, distract yourself and think about something. Of course, health also gets better thanks to sports.
- Emotional release. Often, stress causes negative emotions, and, as already noted, they need to be thrown out. If sport for some reason is not an option, you can beat the ottoman, break the plate, shout into the pillow, break something that is not a pity. In a calm state, a person is no longer susceptible to stress, and such techniques are a great way to achieve calmness.
- Change of activity. When a day off is issued, it must be done differently from a weekday. Your best bet is to dramatically change your environment and employment. You can go camping and sleep in a tent, go skiing or organize a barbecue at a friend’s country house. The more “unusual” days in life, the better for the body and psyche.
In fact, there are many more methods of dealing with stress at university, and, objectively speaking, they are not at all different from the methods of dealing with stress at work and in everyday life. But there are also special situations that require a more specific approach. One of these situations is the upcoming exam.
Even a little stress on the eve of an exam is a hindrance to concentrating on preparation. The best way to avoid this is to eliminate stress factors early or try to adapt to them. Plus, you should not miss lectures, study the material of this or that program on time, do all the work asked by the teachers. Although in some cases this does not help either, because there are very emotional people who experience stress, even if they are completely ready for the exam.
Such students may be advised to pay attention to mild sedatives. But, firstly, there should be no contraindications, and secondly, it is imperative to consult a doctor – only a specialist can choose the appropriate drug.
However, you can really do without pharmaceuticals. To calm down on the threshold of an important event well help “grandmother’s” means, for example, soothing fees and infusions of motherwort, chamomile, mint, valerian. However, you need to start drinking them at least a couple of weeks before the exam. The effect is cumulative. No infusion will be effective if drunk an hour before the event.
The correct daily routine cannot be neglected. To maintain productivity and high performance, worry less and better absorb information, it is advisable to go to bed and wake up at the same time, sleep at least eight hours a day, take breaks from classes during the day, and be outdoors more.
It is recommended to cut back on coffee and tea, carbonated drinks and energy drinks. You need to drink more water and natural juices, eat healthy food, eat fruits and vegetables, berries, fish, cereals, chocolate (it improves brain activity, albeit for a short time).
Compliance with the proposed recommendations is an opportunity to strengthen the psyche, normalize the psycho-emotional state and keep the body in good shape as a whole. But, perhaps, the best option would not be to take emergency measures to neutralize the effects of stress, but to prevent and prevent it in everyday life.
How to prevent stress at university
Avoiding stress-related situations in the long run is easy. To do this, you do not need to wait for the first signs of stress. On the contrary, you need to do so that they do not make themselves felt, and this can be done if you follow a number of simple recommendations:
- Monitor your self-esteem and maintain it at the proper level. Self-esteem should be improved if necessary. Low self-esteem is one of the major sources of stress and problems with academic performance.
- Maintain the level of knowledge. Regularly go to lectures, read accompanying literature, do not create rush jobs for studies. It will also help to avoid overvoltage and overuse.
- Train your memory. The better your memory, the faster and more you will be able to memorize, and this is one of the most important abilities for learning. There are special techniques for developing memory, which are very simple to apply.
- Develop a sense of humor. Laughter not only prolongs life, but also serves as a wonderful way to prevent stress, because it promotes the production of anti stress hormones and the hormone of happiness, which have a beneficial effect on the psyche.
- Relax actively. As you already know, this kind of rest helps to relieve the emotional and physical tension that leads to stress. You need to go in for sports, play active games, take walks and move more.
- Take a shower. A contrast shower in the morning is best suited – it has a tonic effect on the body, strengthens the immune system, normalizes blood circulation, and also invigorates and increases vitality.
- The benefits of relaxation have been proven by scientists. This practice, if properly mastered, contributes to a long-term stable psycho-emotional state, and, if necessary, helps to calm down at any time.
- The effect of this practice is akin to that of relaxation. But in addition to it, meditation allows a person to calm down the running of thoughts, to understand more deeply the reasons for the events taking place and to better understand himself.
- If possible, it is worth signing up for massage sessions. It perfectly relaxes and normalizes both the body and the psyche. However, almost everyone can organize a massage at home – just ask someone from the household.
- Practice aromatherapy. To forget about worries for a while and be alone with yourself, psychologists advise lighting aroma lamps with essential oils of soothing herbs. It is also useful to add aroma oils to water when taking a bath.
- To spend leisure time culturally. One of the best ways to distract yourself and at the same time broaden your horizons is visiting exhibitions, museums and theaters. In addition, such a pastime contributes to obtaining aesthetic pleasure.
- Drink vitamins. The body always needs to be nourished with nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, there is not enough food for this, so you need to drink vitamin complexes and supplements to your daily diet.
Together with these recommendations, you can make it a rule to perform all kinds of breathing exercises and psychological techniques. Using them regularly will be a powerful weapon against stress during your studies. However, even after graduation, they will serve as a useful tool for stress prevention at work and in everyday life.
Stress is a very common problem and literally everyone faces it. This fact should be taken for granted – you can’t get away from stress.
But this is not a reason to panic and despair, because the destructive effects of stress can be avoided even with the toughest training schedule. Maintain a healthy body and lead a healthy lifestyle, reduce the number of bad habits and do not acquire new ones, watch your diet and sleep.
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Don’t take your life lightly, take note of everything we’ve talked about, and no stress will knock you out of the saddle. We wish you good luck and, of course, excellent marks!