Coping with stress
Student Services Hub
Our team of advisers are based within your Student Services Hub and can provide information, advice and guidance on a range of topics from accommodation and funding to exam stress and
wellbeing. Drop us a line or pay us a visit.
Stress is something that is completely normal. Everyone experiences stress from
time to time and sometimes it can be positive, encouraging us to strive to do our
best. However, stress can become a problem if you are feeling stressed very
frequently or so severely, that it impacts on how you would usually live your life.
There is no need to feel embarrassed about stress.
Short-term stress is our body’s response to a feeling of threat or danger.
Evolutionarily, our bodies would flood with adrenaline if we were attacked (known
as the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism), so we could deal with the situation. Nowadays,
the feeling of threat can come from many sources, and we rarely need to fight or flee,
so all the adrenaline stays in our system – we don’t burn it away by action.
can lead to a faster heartbeat, sweating, muscle tensing, our bodies shutting down
areas currently unneeded (eg digestive system – hence we get feelings of nausea),
racing thoughts. We can often deal with this if it’s only for a short time (eg
when giving a presentation), but this response can build and go on for longer
term situations. Our initial adrenaline has gone, but we still feel on-edge,
overwhelmed and tired.
Causes of stress
Different people find different things stressful, and there’s a huge range
of things can cause stress. Some people seem to thrive in stressful situations
while others find it difficult to cope and function normally. Frequently, we
learn to avoid situations that cause us stress, but this only leads to further
stress when we can no longer avoid it (eg not checking our emails because we
don’t want to deal with something, but not checking them for a long time means
we would now have to deal with lots of things). Causes of stress can include:
- close relationships, friendships, and relationships with colleagues,
bosses, supervisors etc
- study demands
- work-related issues
- coping with illness
- life changes, such as moving house, marriage, retirement, divorce
- day-to-day activities and task
- positive events, such as organising parties
- juggling many roles or commitments at the same time
Signs of stress
Even if you are suffering from mild stress you might experience any (or a
combination of) the following symptoms:
- feelings of anxiety
- irritability or moodiness
- feelings of wanting to be left alone
- feelings that you have to pretend to others that you are ok
- feelings that you can’t cope
- difficulty getting to sleep, or waking up frequently while you are sleeping
- back and/or neck pain
- upset stomach
- increased blood pressure
- changes in appetite
- rashes or skin breakouts (spots etc)
- chest pains
- worsening of any current physical problems
- susceptibility to colds/viruses
Any of these symptoms reduce quality of life and people suffering from stress
often realise that their work and/or relationships suffer as a result. Stress puts
a lot of strain on the body and can cause serious health problems. If you are
stressed, it is better to identify it and do something about it rather than ignore it.
Some people are aware of what triggers stress for them and this helps them
prevent the stress or handle it more effectively. This can take a lot of
practice and insight, and a lot of people can’t identify individual events or
causes, or avoid causes they can identify. If you often experience stress,
think about what triggers it for you and try to think of some ways to make
it easier on yourself (eg ensuring that emails are checked at least once a
day means it cannot get to the stage of high levels of stress).
Identify what causes you stress and act on it
Try to identify things that you
can control and manage better. If there are things that are out of your control,
try to see how you operate better around them. Try not to simply avoid things that
cause you stress, but find ways to work round them - it will make you feel stronger
and more able to cope.
Try to find an even balance of work, things you have to do,
and things you like to do. Always working and not spending time with friends and
family can cause stress, as can doing it the other way round!
Exercising regularly will give you more energy in the long run and
you will feel better able to deal with problems around you. Being fitter also means
fewer health concerns if you are stressed.
Try to eat a healthy diet. In the long run you will feel healthier, fitter
and more energetic
If sleeping is difficult, try to follow good sleeping practice – get
up earlier than you want to, go to bed earlier, and try not to engage in tasks that
engage your brain too much directly before going to bed. Studying last thing at night
means our brains are engaged in thinking about the work, not sleeping.
Learn calming techniques
Breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness are all
calming techniques that can help you to relax.
Talk to friends, family or colleagues
Don’t assume the level of stress you feel is normal for everyone. Talk to those around you and share your worries (if this is
Look for reputable websites with information and resources, for example:
Get help from others
Speak to your department – if you are feeling stress related to study pressures it’s a good idea to talk about this with your
personal tutor. They may be able to help.
At the Colchester Campus, we run mindfulness workshops
and courses throughout the year. Mindfulness is about experiencing the world that is in the ‘here and now’. It helps to
promote a way of thinking that frees you from automatic responses and unhelpful ways of thinking (such as stress and worry about the future).
Contact your Student Services Hub
Speak to someone in your Student Services Hub – visit or contact us. This can be the
first step in seeing a counsellor, psychotherapist or other wellbeing practitioner. There are also support groups available as well as