Advice on stress
Stress is a normal part of life. The stress response is not harmful in itself and its function is to help us cope with threatening or challenging situations. When talking about stress, we distinguish between acute and long-term stress. Being stressed for a long time, without time for recovery, can be harmful and lead to negative consequences. As a student, for example, you can experience that the demands are too high or feel out of control, something that might lead to stress. The demands can be both external and internal; you might have several tasks that must be dealt with simultaneously, thoughts about a need for perfection or fell a fear of failure. The demands do not have to be study-related. There can also be social demands, concerns about relatives, worries about economy, difficulty adjusting to a new culture and country or relationship problems.
In order to prevent stress, it is important to strive for a balance between your effort and your recovery. As a student, it can be difficult to know what is expected of you and many students feel that they can always study more.
Gaining knowledge can also make you aware of all the things left to learn, the knowledge that lies ahead. Academic studies generally mean more responsibility on your part, and as a student you must set boundaries for yourself and decide what is enough. Try to focus on what works for you and what you need instead of comparing yourself to others. We are all different and need different things to feel good and succeed with our studies.
One way to make it easier to deal with a stressful situation is creating good routines and making sure to leave time for recovery. Recovery does not only include rest. Recovery can, for example, also be obtained by spending time with friends or exercising. Good routines include prioritising sleep and making sure to eat regularly. Both our body and brain need sufficient energy to function and sleep provides important recovery during the night.
It is common to get sleeping problems when we are stressed. If you have trouble sleeping, there are things you can try on your own (read more under Sleep advice). Other physical signals of stress include headaches, stomach problems, fatigue, dizziness, neck and shoulder pain, chest pain and palpitations. You may also experience changes in your ability to memorise, have a harder time concentrating or feel more easily irritated, depressed and/or experience anxiety.
When we experience stress, it’s common that we try to be even more efficient and do even more, and it becomes increasingly difficult to unwind. In order to catch up, we may also begin to skip things that are important to us such as meeting friends, exercising and doing other leisure activities. If you continue at the same pace and do not give your body a chance to recover, it can result in fatigue syndrome. Fatigue syndrome is a serious condition that often requires a long time for recovery and rehabilitation.
Advice that can help prevent and reduce stress:
- Plan ahead and create good routines.
- Think about what you can do to unwind, what works for you. Make time to do things that makes you feel good and schedule time for recovery. Strive toward having a balance between study and leisure.
- Eat regularly. Getting enough energy is more important than you think. Our brain needs energy to be able to concentrate.
- Prioritise sleep. Sleep is important for recovery and for processing impressions from our day.
- Exercise and be active for at least 30 minutes a day. Physical activity has many positive effects.
- Focus on what you need and want instead of comparing yourself to others.
- Be kind to yourself. Think about how you would talk to and support a friend in the same situation.
- Put away your mobile phone and turn off notifications.
- Make a list of what you intend to do next week. Delete what is not absolutely necessary.
If you need more support, The Student Health Service offers lectures and a workshop in stress management. Read more under Groups and workshops.