Even though the new year at university has only just begun, I can already feel my stress levels on the rise. Going into my final year at Leeds, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the fact that in less than a year, there’s a good chance I’ll be thrown out into the real world. But thinking about all of the things I’ve got to do between now and then is what’s got me worried the most. Although I can admit I’m generally a huge worrier, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last few years, it’s that worrying shouldn’t be front and centre in my life. Instead, I’ve made a huge effort to put worrying to the back of my mind; it’s by no means easy, but it undoubtedly helps to make everyday life much more manageable.
I’ve always been a very organised person (well that’s what I tell myself anyway). I’m always early to meet people and the thought of buying a new organiser fills me with joy. But no matter how much I seem to plan ahead, I always find there’s something I forget to do, or I end up leaving some work to the very last minute. My problem was that I was making ‘to-do’ lists that were far too long; I was expecting that I could work non-stop morning until night, which is just so unrealistic. Instead, I’ve found that setting myself manageable day to day workloads makes me more productive than I would usually be.
Working for just two hours a day and getting a few things done well, is a lot better than working for 10 hours and getting those same few things done, but at only a fraction of the quality. Of course, time management plays a major factor in all of this; I’m by no means suggesting you can start an essay the day before a deadline and expect it to still be a manageable goal. But by beginning to have realistic expectations of yourself, it becomes a lot easier to know what you’re capable of doing.
Perhaps one of the most important things to do, but something that often gets forgotten amongst the stress of university, is taking time to do things you love. It can be so difficult to just switch off from revising or prepping for your next seminar, but just taking some time, however little, to relax will do you the world of good. For me, walking is the ultimate way to destress. I remember during the January exam period of my second year, it was two days before my first exam and the stress I was feeling was so immense I couldn’t bring myself to revise any more. That was until it started snowing that evening, and me and my housemates dropped all our revision and headed out for a walk. It didn’t take away the problem that was causing me stress, I still had to sit my exam of course, but it gave me the chance to reset and recharge, and return to my work feeling just a little bit more positive than I did beforehand.
Finally, don’t be afraid to admit when you’re not able to do something. Sometimes I think the thought of telling someone I’m too stressed is a sign of weakness, but isn’t it quite the opposite? It takes a lot to admit that you’ve got too much on your plate and there’s absolutely no shame in doing so. Also, talking with people about the stress you’re feeling will show you that you’re by no means alone. It’s easy to look around and wonder how your fellow students seem to be coping so well when you’re not, but in almost every instance, this isn’t the case.
There’s nothing abnormal about feeling overwhelmed with university life, but it by no means has to be that way for your entire degree. Learning to manage your time and to have realistic expectations of yourself might not relieve you of all stress instantly, but wouldn’t it be great if it helped even just a little bit?
(Photo credit: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/14/workplace-stress-hans-selye)