The 6th November is International Stress Awareness Day which focuses our minds on caring for our emotional wellbeing.
Most students at one time or another suffer from stress. This can be due to workload and deadlines, exams, family expectations, social problems, relationship issues, money worries – so many reasons.
A little bit of stress is good. It can motivate you to prepare for exams, for example. However, too much stress can cause anxiety, depression, and other health issues. That’s why it’s important to learn to manage stress effectively.
There will always be stressful times in your life, so stress management is an important life skill to master now.
Sleep is number one on the list because students are famous for late nights! You need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night to be productive, focused and safe. However, if you are feeling stressed then it’s much harder for your brain to shut down so from this respect sleep should be last.
The main thing is to avoid too many late nights and to keep a consistent sleep pattern. Go to bed early and read or listen to gentle music for an hour or so to switch off. If you can’t sleep don’t obsess about it because, of course, this makes the problem worse. Anybody who has cared for a small baby will tell you that months and even years without adequate sleep is not ideal but will not kill you!
For more about sleep see: Why is sleep important for academic success?
For your mind and body to function effectively you need regular exercise. Exercise helps you to concentrate and it improves memory and general cognitive ability as well as lifting your mood and improving your sleep.
Choose exercise you enjoy so you’re more likely to do it. If you like to dance, join a class. If you want to lift weights, join a gym. Find a gym that runs from a school or leisure centre and doesn’t require you to be locked into an expensive contract.
Meet a friend and go for a jog. For those who want a challenge check out Couch to 5K. You could take regular brisk walks combined with a high-impact exercise DVD that raises your heart rate. If you’re time poor search the internet for 15 minute exercise routine programmes.
Intensive exercise before bedtime can make it difficult to sleep, so stick to Yoga or stretches in the late evening.
3. Healthy eating
Your diet can sap your energy or boost your brain. A balanced diet is made up of carbohydrate, protein, fruit and vegetables. Include some of each with every meal. Here are some examples.
Carbohydrates: brown rice, wholemeal bread, potatoes cooked in skin, wholewheat pasta, low sugar breakfast cereal, oats.
Protein: eggs, fish, read meat, beans, lentils, poultry, milk, cheese, yoghurts.
Fruit and vegetables: carrots, tomatoes (fresh or tinned), frozen peas (and other veg), salad vegetables, onions, peppers, oranges, apples, bananas, pears, grapes, tinned fruit in unsweetened juice.
Food doesn’t have to take long to prepare. Beans or sardines on toast, boiled eggs, jacket potatoes and vegetable-based pasta dishes are quick and easy.
Avoid takeaways and fast foods. Cook from scratch by finding yourself a student cookbook. Don’t deprive yourself of treats though – all in moderation!
4. Relaxation techniques
There’s a book called 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince which, although not aimed at students, contains a wealth of easy-to-follow and very effective relaxation techniques that are great for everybody.
The techniques in the book draw upon the following:
- Active meditation
- Guided meditation
- Mindful walking
- Positive thinking
The internet has a wealth of information about each of these too. See Relaxation coping skills – activities to help kids calm down at home and at school.
5. Do what you love!
What makes you happy? Is it socialising with friends? Being immersed in a craft project? Playing basketball? Whatever you love doing, make time for it alongside your studies. Remember to have a work-life balance. If you do you will feel:
- More motivated and therefore more productive in your studies
- Have higher self-esteem
- Happier and friendlier towards others.
6. Listen to music
Music has many benefits. It can:
- Help you to concentrate by making you feel calmer.
- It can inspire creativity, getting your ideas going.
- Make you feel better. When you enjoy music your brain releases a chemical called dopamine which lifts your mood.
- Motivate you to exercise. Running, spinning or dancing to music keeps you going!
- Be sociable. There’s nothing like a shared love of music to bond friends.
7. Think positively
Negative thinking can be paralysing. It can stop you from moving forward in life and achieving your goals. Thinking positively boosts confidence, makes you feel happier and reduces stress levels.
But what is positive thinking and how do you achieve it? See the NHS Moodzone (below) for ways to manage unhelpful thinking habits. Also see 7 practical Tips to achieve a positive mindset.
8. Explore Moodzone!
The NHS provides free mental well-being podcasts to help young people who are feeling low or anxious. Each podcast gives simple advice to boost your mood. There’s a mood self-assessment to help you to choose which guide will help you the most. You will find:
- Anxiety control training
- Overcoming sleep problems
- Low confidence and assertiveness
9. Manage your time
Create a study timetable and stick to it as far as you can. Make sure the timetable is realistic. It’s vital to rest, exercise and socialise too. Remember that work can often take longer than you think it will so be kind to yourself when you’re planning. Set yourself up to succeed.
Choose the best place to study. Where are there fewest distractions? Where are you less likely to daydream and procrastinate? Some people study better when there is a buzz around them and others prefer quiet. Be honest about which one is you.
10. One step at a time
When you’re on top of your studies you will feel more relaxed. Sometimes you might feel like you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start. This becomes a vicious cycle because then you’re too frightened to begin and so the mountain becomes a daunting climb.
So take small steps.
Decide what you want to (realistically) achieve today. Don’t work for more than 40 minutes in one stretch. Take 10 to 15 minute breaks with an hour for lunch.
At the end of the day reflect upon what you’ve achieved. If you need help from your tutor because you’re grappling with a difficult concept then get help as soon as you can. Don’t allow any difficulties to become road blocks.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your studies?
If you feel you need extra help TutorMyKids can find you an experienced, qualified local tutor who will support and motivate you with your studies. We offer tuition in the evenings, on weekends and during the holidays.
Whether you need regular tuition or short-term, intensive revision sessions please get in touch.