"Stress is part and parcel of life." But it's not - here's a 5-step guide to smoothly navigate stress in university
Pieces of paper are strewn all over the table in front of me. I pull my hair and gasp for a breath of fresh air, only to realise the amount of work yet untouched and undone. Each 3-hour seminar grows increasingly torturous, and I begin to dread my external commitments, feeling as if I’m competing against an invisible clock to excel - yet they say, “stress is part and parcel of life.” But it’s not.
The rat race to drive ourselves to individual excellence by scoring the best internship, the desire to be an “academic weapon”, and the need to be mavericks both in and out of university - they put a weight on the shoulders of all students. Though some form of stress does push us to unlock our potential, excessive pressure can become counterproductive and destructive.
Undoubtedly, throughout university, you will find yourself at the apex of knowledge and surrounded by opportunities that promise personal achievements. But as this landscape unfolds before you, a “formidable companion” (i.e. stress) will inevitably tag along. And so, the question arises, “How do we manage stress in healthy ways?”
Well, your 5-step guide to navigating stress in university is right here:
1. Time Management
Tick tock…doesn’t it feel like we are all racing against an invisible clock with minute and hour hands that seem to turn at supernatural speeds? As such, good time management should be the first thing to help you cope with stress.
Make a Notion page with aesthetic Pinterest images, or schedule blocks of time on Google Calendar and you will find that life becomes far more manageable. Be best friends with organisational applications to stay on track and on task!
Putting on your favourite sitcom or your most beloved Taylor Swift album in the background, throwing on a face mask or going for a run – these are all forms of pampering yourself which your body needs and deserves as a form of rest and relaxation from all the hard work you have been doing!
Admittedly, most of us struggle with rest. The feeling of being “useless” and “unmotivated” may very well overwhelm you to start work again. In the hustle and bustle of life, self-care is akin to the supportive friend who has your back when deadlines and deliverables are coming at you like a storm.
Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it is a necessity to navigate the ups and downs of university life while staying sane.
3. Solid Support System
Yes, the phrase alliterates (on purpose) to emphasise the importance of having a group of friends and family to rely on.
University is a 4-years long marathon and the key to winning is to sustain. Know that no individual functions as a silo system. We cooperate and collaborate to form a community that navigates challenges and celebrates success together.
4. Learn to say NO
Of course, this does not mean saying “No” to every assignment being tasked to you; it means regularly evaluating your bandwidth throughout the semester and assessing whether you should take on more commitments.
University offers you a plethora of opportunities: from extracurricular activities to internships and social events. While it is great to get involved and dip your toes into all aspects for the experience, it is equally, or even more, important to recognise your limits.
Learn to say no when your plate is full and set boundaries to conserve your energy. Overcommitting can be counterproductive and lead to burnout, so prioritise activities aligned with your individual goals and bring you joy.
5. Take it easy
A phrase commonly used. It is advice often given, but never put into practice. University life seems to be a fever dream, a fleeting moment that you cannot possibly capture since everything moves too fast. Progress at your own speed and be proud of every achievement made (big or small), acknowledge the defeats but never feel disempowered over them. We are not bound to a ticking clock or an unspoken competition against each other - take things one step at a time.
If you have read this far, I hope this article provided you with some form of solace amidst the chaos of the never-ending assignments, pre-readings, and commitments. So, I leave you with this “space” here at the end as a reminder to give yourself space to take a breather from the hecticness of the world around you…
You are never alone, keep fighting.