How to manage stress and anxiety when studying

Monday, 20 May 2019

Everyone goes through stressful or anxious periods in their life. These are often in response to particularly demanding or worrying situations, and usually pass when the pressure subsides. Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried – it’s when these feelings don’t pass, they frequently return, or they interrupt your day-to-day life and affect your mental wellbeing.

It can be difficult to manage stress and anxiety when studying, especially when the looming pressure of exams and assignments begin to creep up. There isn’t one approach that works for everyone, so we’ve put together some quick tips and strategies to help you prioritise your mental health and reach your study goals.

Try not to compare yourself to others

Everyone’s life follows a different path. While Stevie Wonder may have signed his first record deal when he was only 11-years-old, Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel Comics, didn’t create his first comic until he was 39.

Studying is no different. Thinking about how your classmates, friends, or relatives performed on a certain assignment or exam only makes it harder to focus on the task at hand. If you find yourself making comparisons, don’t berate yourself: acknowledge the thought, recognise your own strengths, and gently shift your focus back to the journey. Life is not a competition. By recognising that no one is perfect you can focus on moving your own journey forward.

Get outdoors

A girl practising mindfulness outdoors to help manage stress and anxiety when studying
Getting outdoors is a great way to catch your breath and practice mindfulness.

One of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety when studying is by getting outdoors. Exercise is a great way to get your heart rate pumping and energise both your body and mind. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a quick ride on your bike, or a trip to the gym, it all makes a difference in reducing stress and helping you get a better night’s sleep.

Breathe

Sometimes when you’re stressed or anxious, your body can forget to breathe properly. Instead, you might hold your breath for too long or breathe too quickly. When you notice your anxiety levels rising, try to take a few deep breaths. Focussing on something as simple as breathing can distract you from your racing thoughts and quieten unwelcome thoughts.

Find a study method that works for you

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for studying. It’s important to experiment and find a system that works for you and your mental health. Whether that’s done by decreasing your workload to part-time study, or experimenting with online learning, there are a lots of strategies that can help you manage stress and anxiety when studying.

For example, if you find large, busy lecture theatres daunting, perhaps start by sitting near the exit so you can slip away quietly. Or you could site on the side of the room where there are fewer people. Alternatively, consider watching some of your lectures online in the comfort of your own room.

“Just five minutes”

Procrastination can trigger anxiety. The five minute method is as simple as it sounds – convince yourself to work for just five minutes. Often once you have started, you find that you can keep working, or that ten minutes goes by without you even realising. If not, at least you’ve still achieved five minutes of work!

Moderate your caffeine and alcohol intake

A girl studying and drinking coffee
Coffee can trigger anxiety and cause you to overact.

When you need a quick boost of energy, it may be easy to turn straight to the corner coffee shop. But it’s important to be aware that caffeine is a powerful stimulant and drinking too much can actually increase symptoms of anxiety. This is partially due to the fact that it triggers a “flight or fight” response, which can cause you to overreact in situations that aren’t actually dangerous.

On the other end of the spectrum is alcohol. Whilst alcohol is a powerful relaxant, it most likely won’t help you the next day. It’s common to experience bouts of anxiety as your body works to expel the alcohol from your system. Be mindful and know your limits.

Talk to someone

It can be difficult to talk about your struggles when you’re feeling anxious, but it can be even harder on your body and mind if you say nothing. While all of these strategies can certainly help you to manage stress and anxiety while studying, when anxiety becomes an ongoing challenge it’s best to talk to someone.

If you’re struggling, consider talking to a family member, friend, or health professional. Sometimes seeking help can simply remind you that you are not alone.

University support services

If you’re studying at university, make sure you get to know your student guild. These teams offer student support and advocacy services that can advocate your case and help you apply for extensions or waive academic penalty if your mental health needs to be prioritised.

Most universities also offer free counselling and wellbeing services for students. These services exist to assist you with any personal issues, including anxiety and stress, and are dedicated to helping you live your best life at university.

How can EPIC help you?

At EPIC, we understand that positive mental health is the key to success. Our courses and workshops are delivered in a flexible way that prioritises your mental health so you can learn at your own pace and in a way that suits you. We use our experience as a specialised disability service and our passion for education to ensure that you have the best support and resources you need to reach your goal.

Our Mental Health Consultancy is available to all EPIC job seekers who need it. We tailor our approach to make sure that you receive the support you need right from the start. Send us a message or give us a call to discuss how we can support your unique needs and goals.

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