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How to Reduce Stress at University in 2020

If we were to ask you how you were doing, right now, what is the chance that you would say “stressed”? Or at least think it? Our guess is that the chances are pretty high. Before this year, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, we already lived in a fast paced world where many things contributed to stress. Now, with the world around us changing in more obvious ways than before, it can be easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Of course, stress isn’t always bad. We need some stress to motivate us and to help us grow as people. However, when stress is paired with a lack of support, or is chronic and intense, it starts to be a problem. 

When the Peer Health Educator team was thinking about what contributes to stress for students today, we thought of five main things: money, time management, burnout, loneliness, and the COVID-19 pandemic. To try and help you feel less stressed, or to manage the stress that you are experiencing, this blog post will go over these five topics and give you our top tips for being less stressed. 

Money

One area that many people, especially students, find stressful is finances. If you’re worried about money and how you’ll make it last all semester, it’s really hard to feel relaxed and to focus on your studies. Here are a few ideas for helping with stress around money: 

1. MAKE A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT 

Having a plan for how you will spend your money will help you have money allocated for important things like rent or car insurance. If you’ve never made a budget before and need some ideas, check out this link to the Ambrose website.

2. LOOK FOR SMALL WAYS TO SAVE MONEY 

Sometimes, it’s the little things we spend money on throughout the week that add up to be a problem. Cutting out small purchases that aren’t necessary can save money that you can then spend elsewhere. 

3. TALK TO THE AMBROSE FINANCIAL AID DEPARTMENT

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is financial aid and awards that you might not know about, and Ambrose staff are here to help. 

4. LOOK FOR SCHOLARSHIPS 

There are many types of scholarships available. Not all of them are academic, so look on various websites for scholarships that might apply to you. 

5. INVEST YOUR MONEY IF YOU TEND TO SPEND IT

If you tend to spend money that you need to save, consider putting that money into a high interest savings account that has a limited number of withdrawals. There are also various types of safe investments that can make you money while keeping it out of your bank account where you can’t spend it. 

Time Management 

Once school kicks off and you have the responsibilities of class, work, family, and friends all competing for your attention, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. This type of chronic stress can turn into anxiety or depression, so for your wellbeing, it’s important to cultivate a work-life balance that feels manageable.

1. USE A PLANNER OR AGENDA 

Having one place where all your commitments and deadlines are laid out can be extremely helpful, if not essential. Keeping an agenda and using it daily can help you manage your time and stay on top of what’s happening in your life. 

2. ESTABLISH PRIORITIES 

When there are lots of things competing for your time, start by making a list of what needs to be done, and then prioritize by what is most important or what needs to be done first. Breaking things into chunks can also make tasks more manageable. 

3. SET YOUR PHONE TO “DO NOT DISTURB” WHEN WORKING 

This will allow work time to be much more efficient than when you are distracted by the digital world. 

4. DON’T FEEL GUILTY FOR NEEDING BREAKS 

Everyone needs to rest, and getting enough rest is actually crucial to making sure you have enough energy to check off your to do list and generally enjoy life. 

Burnout 

Burnout is a state of total exhaustion caused by being stressed for a long period of time. If you are constantly busy and overworked, you might not even notice that you’re burnt out until it begins to impact most areas of your life. Because of this, it’s best to prevent burnout from even happening. 

1. SCHEDULE DOWN TIME 

Planning time to do personal activities that are fun or relaxing can re-energize you and help prevent burnout. 

2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING PEOPLE

Being around negative or overly competitive people can be really exhausting. Find people who will build you up and encourage you in moments of stress, instead of tear you down or encourage competitiveness. 

3. FOSTER A GROWTH MINDSET 

Everyone feels discouraged when they make mistakes, and it can be easy to feel like you have to work harder to make up for those mistakes. Approaching mistakes with a growth mindset means accepting that everyone fails sometimes, and looking at failure as a chance to grow. This takes the pressure off of you to be perfect- which is good, because nobody is. 

4. SET BOUNDARIES AROUND WORK

Decide what is a sustainable amount of work or number of commitments for you to do in a week, and don’t do more than that. Stand up for yourself, and advocate for your needs. 

Loneliness 

Loneliness can be a big contributor to stress for many university students, and the COVID-19 pandemic and required isolation have only made this problem worse. It’s hard to make new friends and connect with people right now, but there are still things that all of us can do to help with loneliness. 

1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS 

Ignoring how you’re feeling, or trying to pretend that you aren’t lonely, will only make things worse. You can only really start to look for solutions once the problem has been acknowledged. 

2. INITIATE CONNECTIONS 

Good friends and meaningful connection rarely just fall into someone’s lap. Don’t wait for friendship to come to you if you’re lonely. Initiate connections with people- new friends, old friends, family, and coworkers. This is challenging to do right now, we know, but there are still safe ways to connect. 

3. LEARN NEW SKILLS 

Learning something new can both give you confidence and provide an opportunity to meet new people. 

4. TALK TO A THERAPIST 

Don’t go through hard experiences like loneliness alone. A therapist is there to support you however you need, and can provide advice and practical solutions for dealing with loneliness. 

5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF! 

There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling lonely- it’s something everyone experiences from time to time. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and know that you’re not alone in this experience. 

Zoom Fatigue 

With the pandemic keeping us on our computers all the time, especially when it comes to video calling, we can get quickly exhausted. A recent concept has popped up to describe this. Termed “Zoom Fatigue,” the concept outlines the fact that people who are on video conferences for long periods of time can feel more emotionally exhausted at the end of the day than being with people in person. Turning your camera off during calls can help reduce your energy use during meetings, but unfortunately can’t help with effects of high overall screen time on your mental well-being. Don’t worry, there are still some things that can help. 

1. TAKE SCHEDULED BREAKS 

Every day, plan breaks where you will spend time off of technology entirely. Give your eyes and brain a break from the screen and go for a walk, read a physical book, spend time on a hobby, or talk to a friend. 

2. STAY HYDRATED 

Nothing in your body functions well without water. Staring at a screen for hours will already make you more prone to headaches, so make sure to drink lots of water. This will help with regulating your mood and productivity. 

3. TRY EYE EXERCISES 

Even if you can’t do anything else, eye exercises can help fight fatigue throughout the day. They’re super easy to do and don’t even require you to move away from your desk. Just pick something in the distance (preferably about 20 feet away) and look at it for about thirty seconds, then repeat every half hour. 

Remember that just because we make these tips sound simple doesn’t mean they’re easy to do. You still have to make a point to, first of all, DECIDE you are going to do it, plan how, and then continue deciding to do it. Maintaining your mental and physical health is hard work, but it makes everything else in your life more manageable and more enjoyable! If you ever find yourself lost or wanting help in developing good mental health habits, or you just feel overwhelmed, please book an appointment with one of our Peer Health Educators for a wellness check

Monday, September 28, 2020
Category
Wellness