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How to cope with study stress

By Ashley 11 Aug 2019
Image of stressed student.

We all have those days where we just want to curl up into the foetal position in the corner of the room and rock back and forth. Don’t we? If not, you seriously need to share with me how you keep a uni/work/life balance. I, for one, admit that I am a stress head – I stress about the smallest things to the biggest things and it all takes its toll, often at the worst times. It has taken me years to finally realise how to unwind and have some ‘me’ time, to minimise the effects that uni and study have on my mental wellbeing.

It’s good to have some stress in your life and it can be a useful motivator. However, while some levels of stress can assist you in studying, there are also times when out of control stress can prevent you from studying altogether. Imagine you are swimming in the ocean. Assistive stressors (the good ones) put you at the point where you are comfortable swimming, you are able to tread water and float over the waves. Preventative stressors (the nasty ones) feel like you have gone too far into the water and a wave is crashing down on you and you are struggling for air. Hint: you don’t want to reach this point of stress!

Having experienced both floating over the waves and being swamped by them, here are some of the tips I use when I can feel myself getting a little too far from the shoreline.


I’m the type of person that doesn’t run unless they are being chased by a serial killer or see a snake. I personally despise exercise, but I’ve learned to incorporate it into my daily life (well, try to anyway). I find that if I go to the gym for an hour when I am stressed, I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back into study. Exercise helps to keep you feeling both physically and mentally fit, strong and happy. It really is worth it I swear!

Call family and friends

My mum is my go-to person and I call her pretty much every night (I know, I’m a mummy’s girl). She listens to my worries and gives me advice. If she’s at work or I need a hug in-person, I go to the friends I feel comfortable with who are always willing to help me out (you need those people in your life). Your support network are there to do exactly that… support you, so make sure you reach out when you feel those waves getting stronger.

Ashley with a group of her friends

Time with friends is one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to combat those preventative stressors!

Do something you enjoy

Whatever you’re into, (sport, painting, crafts, colouring-in or binge-watching your favourite TV Show) taking the time to do things you enjoy and that help you to unwind is super important. Personally, I like crawling into bed and watching my favourite TV shows (Friends or Grey’s Anatomy) for an hour or five.

Go home

Whether you live 5 minutes or 5 hours from home, ‘adulting’ and living away from family can take a toll. Sometimes there’s just nothing I want more than to be in my own bed back at home, surrounded by my family. If this is you too, make plans to go home to see your family and friends as often as you can, especially during busy end of semester times (if you can fit it in). When the waves are rolling in, a quick trip home can be exactly what the doctor ordered. Not to mention a home-cooked meal!

Ashley with her family

There really is no place like home, especially when you’re stressed.

Plan ahead

To minimise the effects of stress, be organised and create a weekly planner of exactly what you need to have done and when you need to have it done by (incredibly helpful when assessment is due). Try to always give yourself a bit of breathing room in your study schedule so that if something pops up or you need a bit of ‘me time’ it doesn’t add extra stress.

It’s no secret that uni can be stressful, and like I said before, it’s taken me a long time to get the hang of handling the waves. I’ve found that the key is to use these stress buster tips as a prevention, rather than a cure. Don’t just hit the gym or head home for a visit when things get out of control. Doing these things regularly will help you keep the balance and stay strong for those stormier seas. But in the words of one wise little fish, the most important thing is that you ‘just keep swimming’.

If you feel like your preventative stress is getting out of control or you just need some help to come up for air, there is a range USQ Student Support and practical tips to help you get back on track. There’s also heaps you can do to build your mental resilience to help you withstand those inevitable waves and just keep on swimming. Not sure where to start? Check out this blog on how to upgrade your mental resilience.

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