The Gown’s Guide to a Stress-Free Degree

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Niamh Wallace, Lifestyle Editor

This article is written with the hindsight of my final year, I’m a self-confessed stressed out student. I’ve always been a worrier, and by extension have suffered from anxiety and bad mental health over the years. The problems began in full during my A-Levels, the first important set of academic exams I had faced to that date.

Under the pressure, I crumbled. I had always taken naturally to academia and my school work had never been a worry prior to these exams. The stress placed upon me at school and the unrealistic expectations I put on myself caused me to freeze from fear, leaving me utterly unable to help myself. As a result, I underachieved and missed the grades to meet my offer. Thankfully, I was accepted a few days later and I made a resolution to myself to never let stress affect me in such a way again.

If my situation sounds familiar to you, read my tips that I’ve amassed over the years to tackle stress and anxiety so that it doesn’t inhibit you from achieving your goals, academic or otherwise.

  1. Be Objective

The biggest mistake you can make is ignoring a task because it stresses you out. When an essay for one of your modules has a huge word count that makes you nervous, and as a result you procrastinate, avoiding writing it until the very last-minute overloading your brain with extra stress. Instead, you should be objective about the task at hand. Focus on the preliminary reading and the essay planning without thinking of the magnitude of the essay itself. Be objective and break the larger task into lots of manageable mini tasks and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to smashing that essay. The same goes for if you’re worried about a particular class and end up avoiding the prep work. Be objective about the work in question and you’ll find you get it done much quicker and to a higher standard, helping you to be much less anxious in class as a result.

  1. Give Yourself Five Minutes of Fear

Sometimes your feelings are just so potent you’ve just got to let them take over. But the best way to do this is to allocate them time-slot and don’t let them spill over. Set a timer on your phone and let yourself worry for a maximum of five minutes, let your brain think the very worst that it can. Then mentally close the floodgates. A good way to do this is through a stream of consciousness journaling: take a page and just spill all of your thoughts and worries out onto a page for 5 minutes. Then when the timer goes off, rip the page up and throw it out, and act.

  1. Action is the Enemy of Anxiety

The best way to deal with anxiety is to act. It’s natural for you to freeze from fear, but it’s important to pull yourself out of it. If assignments and reading have got you feeling overwhelmed, make an action plan. Write down everything you need to read and plan and factor it into your schedule for the week. If you’re stressing about certain modules or classes, make sure you have all of the work done and ready to go in the morning. Even actions such as cleaning your room, having a shower or going for a run will make you feel immeasurably better and ready to face your dreaded tasks.

  1. Remember why you study

It can be easy to see University as a chore, but continuing your education isn’t a compulsory part of life. Odds are, you chose to be where you are for one reason or another. Maybe you’re here because you love the subject you study, maybe you want to give yourself the best prospects in life, maybe you want to feel a sense of achievement at the end. Think back to how you felt when you got your acceptance letter and remember that many people envy your position and would love the opportunity to be where you are now. If the feelings of stress you are experiencing are so overwhelming that they contribute to long-term mental health issues, it’s maybe time to consider an alternate path. Ultimately, the university experience isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t worth losing yourself over.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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