University can be a really stressful time. For many, it’s the first time away from home, in a new city, with completely new people, and on top of this, you’re given deadlines left, right and centre. Although it’s normal to feel stressed and out of your comfort zone, there are ways to help manage student stress. From identifying the cause of student stress to tips on how to manage it, our guide aims to help you make the most out of your time at uni without stress getting in the way. 

What causes student stress?

how to manage student stress

In order to manage student stress we first need to understand how stress can be caused. For students, stress can be caused by a number of reasons, including:

  • The feeling of loneliness, being away from home or testing relationships
  • Managing money or dealing with debt
  • Finding a job to support your university journey
  • Managing work, studies and social life
  • Revising for exams
  • Getting started with writing essays or any form of coursework
  • The use and pressure of drinking and drugs
  • Not getting the grades you want (here’s what to do if you fail an assignment)

When we are feeling stressed, we react to this in a number of ways. It may be behavioural, physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, insomnia, etc., or psychological, such as fear, panic, anxiety and more. Sometimes the symptoms of stress are manageable or go away quickly, but if they are impacting your ability to cope or live life fully, it’s worth thinking about how to manage them. 

Overall, student stress isn’t uncommon, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to live with. The NHS provides a wealth of information on how to cope with stress, but here are a few everyday techniques on how to manage student stress to try too. 

Tips on how to manage student stress

Finding what works for you is going to be the most effective, but considering what your source of stress is can help you find where to start. Here are our 5 tips on how to manage student stress to get you started. Many of these tips are also useful for looking after your mental health as a student generally.

1. Movement

movement can help manage student stress

Exercise has been proven to help with mental health by giving your mind a new focus. This doesn’t have to be long hours in the gym. This can be simply going for a brisk walk or a run. It pumps feel good hormones around our body that in turn reduce any built-up tension and refocuses our mind from things that worry us to things enjoy. 

There are always clubs, groups and societies you could join in your local area if you’re struggling to motivate yourself to get started. This can include an array of sports and also gives you an opportunity to meet new people.

2. Mindfulness

mindfulness to manage student stress

As students, we’re often thinking about the next assignment deadline, the next time we get paid or what we’re going to do after uni. There’s a lot of thinking – and worrying – about the future, which can play a role in how we live in the present. This is where mindfulness comes in and can help us manage student stress. It’s all about focusing on the now and staying in control of our thoughts. 

Mindfulness originated in Buddhism and has been adopted by clinicians to improve stress and anxiety. These stress management techniques involve deep breathing and guided meditation. One of the easiest ways to manage student stress through mindfulness is to download an app. Headspace or Calm are popular ones, but luckily there are quite a few out there. 

3. Talk to someone

how to manage student stress

Feeling alone can have a dramatic effect on your happiness and you’d be surprised how many people starting out at uni feel lonely. In a world of Instagram and TikTok where everyone has the perfect life surrounded by large groups of friends, it’s easy to feel like it’s just us. But even the people you would least expect suffer from loneliness, stress and anxiety.

When you’re feeling these things speak to friends and family, or you can even seek professional help. Studies have revealed that socialising with friends just once a week can reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health. If you’re looking to meet new people then joining societies is a great way to do this.

4. Manage your time

time management for stress

A trigger of student stress can be feeling like you’re running out of time to do something you’ve had on your to-do list, or you’ve been meaning to do it for a while. Simple time management techniques can help to manage student stress and keep you focused.

A great way to manage time is to create a breakdown of tasks and plan accordingly. There are a variety of apps that can help with this, or you can simply write things down. Writing can actually be therapeutic too! Try to order your tasks by priority and deadlines. And don’t forget to schedule in some downtime too. Making sure you have time to relax can do wonders for managing student stress.

5. Get enough sleep

get enough sleep to manage stress

Getting enough sleep can help towards mental health and managing student stress. The recommended number of hours of sleep is 8 full hours every night but this can differ per person. If you have a Fitbit or tracker that monitors your sleep, keep an eye on how much you’re having and how you feel when you wake up.

Not only is it important to get enough sleep, but – as mentioned – you should also have downtime/relaxation time before you sleep as this helps the quality of your sleep. Setting a routine of what time you go to bed and wake up is important. Getting into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same time every day and having a routine has proven to help with mental health. This is obviously hard to do as a student, where there’s something going on every night of the week. But letting yourself have a routine at least 4-5 days of the week can really give your brain, body and ability to manage stress a boost. 

If you find it difficult to sleep, developing a pre-sleep, unwind routine can also help here. There are a number of ways you can relax before bed, including:

  • Taking a bath
  • Watching something light on TV
  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • If you sleep in the same room as you study then make sure to cover all aspects that remind you or could stress you out
  • Avoid laptops, phones and tablets before going to sleep

If you find these daily techniques aren’t effectively managing your student stress, then visit your local GP, get in contact with your university department, or contact one of the organisations who specialise in student mental health. These include Mind and Student Minds. 

Last Updated on March 17, 2024