Helping Students Combat Stress – guest blog

Guest blog written by Sophie Proctor on behalf of NatWest

Helping Students Combat Stress

For the majority of students, university is their first time living away from home, away from all the comforts they’re used to. This alone can cause feelings of anxiety, which are then heightened by meeting new people, in an often unfamiliar city, and lots of late nights either out partying or cramming to meet deadlines. So a combination of all these factors can cause stress, even when it’s not exam period.

The Student Living Index, conducted by NatWest, delves into student spending, uncovering how much they spend each month on socialising and alcohol, to academic materials. It also asked students about their motivations, degree enjoyment and stress, both financially and towards their degree. A rather problematic statistic was that almost half (43%) of students rated their stress of studying at an 8 or higher out of 10.

So we’re here to discuss which students are experiencing the most stress and advise how they can combat it.

Which students are feeling the most stressed?

Unsurprisingly, it’s Oxbridge students who are feeling the pressure of their studies. Almost 15% of Oxford students rated the highest level of stress. Similar results were found from Cambridge students with 15% of male and 8.7% of female students rating their degree stress level 10.

But the students undergoing the highest level of stress in the UK were Stirling students, with almost 1 in 5 rating their degree stress a 10. As discovered in this survey, it’s not just studying which causes stress, it’s also adjusting to a student budget. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of UK students rated the stress of watching their wallet at an 8 or higher, and this jumped to almost a third (31.5%) for Stirling students.

However, could there be a link between the stress of managing finances and the support offered by the university? Whilst a shocking 43% of students felt less than average support, it was Stirling students who felt the least financial support with 39.5% stating they felt they received absolutely no support. Possibly offering students a discount card or advice on budgeting might steer them away from splurging – or should it be a learning curve?

What’s the expert opinion behind this high stress?

Dr Michael Smith, a psychology professor at Northumbria University, commented on these findings “Going to university can be a stressful time for a number of reasons. Firstly, for many students, going to university can mean living away for the first time. This can lead to feelings of loneliness because family and friends from home are no longer around to provide the same level of social support as previously.”

Dr Smith acknowledges how a typical student lifestyle can intensify stress, “The student lifestyle also means that university students tend to have a poorer diet and maintain poorer sleep patterns. Then, of course, there is the stress associated with meeting deadlines and keeping up with university work, while at the same time maintaining a social life and possibly working to help manage a tight budget.”

How can you fight these stressors?

To help bring some calm into students’ hectic lives, we’re giving some pieces of advice to help fight those feelings of stress and anxiety towards both studying and your finances.

Firstly, our top tips for degree stress:

  1. Work smarter, not harder. Finding manageable chunks of time to dedicate 100% of your concentration will benefit you much more than long hours without giving yourself time to rest. Allocate some time for both studying and relaxation in order to give your mind some downtime.
  2. Check your lifestyle. Whether it’s staying up late to meet deadlines or cram for tests, or just out partying with friends, late nights and a poor diet can cause us to feel more stressed. Ensure you’re getting sufficient rest, avoid substituting caffeine for water and have some veggies.
  3. Avoid bottling up your emotion. It can feel like you’re the only one who’s homesick or overwhelmed with student life, so make sure you’re opening up to friends, family or reach out to one of our therapists. No one needs to feel alone when battling with anxiety or stress.
  4. Finding a safe place to displace negative feelings is important. Whether it’s taking up a hobby or joining a gym or sports team, have a separate outlet to release this emotion is key. This will give you something else to focus on and release some endorphins.
  5. Move from stress to rational thinking. Staying in control of our mind, and stopping it from going into overdrive by rationalising our thought processes can help us stay calm. Combining this with taking more control over our workload and lifestyle can help combat any overwhelming feelings of stress.

And for those feeling overwhelmed by pinching pennies, here’s our advice:

  1. The most obvious piece of advice is to create a budget, but this is often the trickiest to stick to. But having an idea of how much exactly we can spend per week, it will give you more control over your finances and hopefully mean you manage your loan more efficiently
  2. Use a banking app so you can keep track of your finances on the go. See your outgoings and any money coming in so you don’t have a nasty surprise when checking your balance at the ATM
  3. Get a part-time job. If you feel comfortable enough setting aside 8 hours each week away from studying or socialising then having some income from working will help relieve some of the financial worries. You’ll get the opportunity to meet new people and it should give you bonus points on your CV for having a part-time job whilst
  4. Find out what discounts are out there. If your university isn’t offering any financial support, doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to get discounts across electronics, fashion and food. So have a hunt around for some great bargains.
  5. Keep an eye out for own brands and dupes. When doing your weekly shop, look for products where you can buy own brand, it’ll be cheaper and you’re getting more or less the exact same product. Same goes for beauty products, we can substitute the high-end for the more moderately priced to help save.

Non-advert disclaimer

The views expressed by the contributor are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor can we guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. If you would like to write a blog for AUK please email blog@anxietyuk.org.uk  for more information