Regardless of whether you’re a prospective student, currently at Surrey or alumni, this is for you.
Stress is such a norm nowadays; it is an accepted part of everyday life. This doesn’t mean it has to affect your life in such a way that day-to-day existence starts to become unbearable. I think when there is pressure on you at any point, it’s important to stay as rational as you can. Stress can be really harmful, and it really is a lot easier to fall into its trap than it is to climb out of it.
Here are the harsh facts:
- Stress can really hit your immune system hard, and you can find yourself suffering from bugs, viruses and infections you’ve never before experienced: tonsillitis, glandular fever, ear infections and flu being incredibly common. Look after yourself, especially as the weather gets cold – your health always, always comes first!
- Stress also affects your relationships. Friends, family, partner – when your headspace is taken up by frenzied worry and obsession over what needs doing, you may well find that your relationships suffer, or become more distant. Make sure you take regular time out to put the work away, block out the worries and relax with the people you love. It does you so much good!
- A little bit of stress can get you a long way in life; it motivates you to succeed. But anything more can be really harmful and lead to mental health problems galore. This is the point in life where you slowly but surely learn how to achieve balance: work and play, focus and relaxation, social life and “me time”. Work, but don’t run yourself into the ground doing that.
Although what you’re doing is no doubt important, and you need to work hard, it’s not always as drastically stressful as you perceive it to be, and you’ll only get more stressed if you obsess over everything too much. There are enough hours in the week to get everything done, even though it often doesn’t feel like that. Be sure to only commit to what you know you have time to do, sleep ~8 hours a night, and eat at least three meals a day.
If you are a prospective student, chances are you’re in the midst of A levels whilst applying to University (which means trying to work out how UCAS works). It’s commonly a stressful time; I remember that exact time four years ago when I was trying to do my A levels, preparing for my Grade 8 Piano exam and learning to drive all in the same few months.
I remember worrying so much that University would be even more stressful, to the point at which I actually emailed the Admissions Tutor for the Music department asking whether the course would be really stressful. His response was something like “My PhD was less stressful than my Masters, which was less stressful than my Undergraduate degree, which was less stressful than A levels”. I still remember it because it was so resonant to me – I realised that the A level stress wouldn’t last forever!
My response to my younger self’s question is similar, but I would add that as we go through various stages of life, we do indeed experience different, and sometimes increasing, levels of stress. However, we become wiser to it and deal with it more effectively. So don’t worry about the future too much – focus on each day, and take it as it comes! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by parts of life that haven’t even happened yet, and that you can’t control.
As for current students, it’s that point in the year, right? You’ve been away from home for nearly two months, it seems to get dark about 5 minutes after you eat breakfast, your clothes are gradually going missing, sock by sock, and the workload is ramping up by the week. It’s stressful.
Here are some positive things to bear in mind:
- You are here for a reason; the No.4 University in the UK (The Guardian, 2016) wouldn’t have accepted someone that they didn’t think could capably complete their degree.
- You are not alone – everybody is under pressure to succeed at University – in terms of deadlines, performance and general life. Some stressors (causes of stress) that people experience are the same, whilst some are entirely different – but everybody can relate.
- There is so much support available to you at University, and specific people who are fully trained to help students with stress-related issues.
And here are some things you can do at Surrey to combat stress if you feel that it’s getting too much:
- Pay a visit to the Happiness Café, run by the Support Zone in the Students’ Union! It’s totally free, in the cosy Front Room of the SU and is an opportunity to do colouring and other stress-busting related activities, whilst chatting to people who understand and care over a cuppa. Find out about it here!
- Book an appointment at the Centre for Wellbeing – they are there to chat things through with you, be a non-judgemental listening ear and can offer regular counselling if necessary. They also do regular workshops which are really helpful – find out more here.
- Pop into the University Chaplaincy (Surrey Wey, ground floor flat) where you will find a bunch of pastoral listening ears who are more than happy to chat to you, again non-judgementally and neutrally (regardless of faith, or lack of). More information here!
- If it’s something specifically course-related that is causing you stress, go to your Personal Tutor about it – it’s what they’re there for!
- Take some time out from studying, go into Guildford or walk along the river, walk up to the Mount and enjoy the views or go to the Sports Park and exercise it out!
- Tell a friend/housemate if you’re struggling. Chances are, they’re in the same boat and will be relieved that you told them. Then you can make a cup of tea, crack open a pack of tesco value digestives (yep, standard) and watch Disney films all night as some sort of group therapy!
Despite constantly being surrounded by people, stress can make a student feel quite isolated. So take this advice on board if it applies to you, look after yourself and enjoy the all-round experience of wherever you’re at in your studies!
Until next time,