How To Deal With Final Year University Stress
Dissertation + money worries + potential unemployment post graduation + need to fit in every party = final year university stress.
You have had it drilled into you. Every single exam, test and grade have all been stepping stones to this final hurdle – your final year of your degree.
Whether you are yet to experience this concluding chapter of your university experience or are midway through it, the words ‘stress’ and ‘procrastination’ are said more times than you have had roast dinners. But what do they mean? What forms do they come in and how can you deal with them?
The NHS define stress “as a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. In small amounts it’s good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, including in exams.”
Prospects spoke to Dr Paul Blenkiron, an NHS consultant psychiatrist explains that ‘stress occurs when the demands upon us are greater than our ability to cope with them, but there’s a difference between stress and pressure. I may have a busy job where I’m under pressure, but I may be coping and even enjoying it without stress.’
According to the NUS, some reasons for final year stress could be:
- Exams, assessments, major projects and dissertations – an overwhelming 90% of students reported that final year exams, as well as the mammoth task of undertaking a dissertation, caused them more stress than they expected.
- Future careers – having to juggle university work as well as having to fill out endless cover letters, job applications and sending off your CV to potential employers, resulted in 75% of students reporting their future career prospects after graduation were ‘reasonably or very stressful’. This is understandable, considering everything you have done right up until this final year is to get a job and avoid joining the 4.7% of UK population who are unemployed .
- Money – alongside everything else that you are juggling, perhaps you are one of the 1 in 7 students who work full time. Financial difficulties were cited by 70% of students as a key source of stress. Students were concerned that their student loan barely covers their costs, and many worried about being able to pay rent on time. Moreover, 50% of students said that having a part-time job alongside their studies added to their life pressures.
How to deal with stress:
Stress affects everyone differently, and different coping mechanisms work for different individuals, but here’s some common remedies:
This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours running away from your problems (literally), you simply need to get your heart rate high. A gentle walk in the fresh air can do wonders, or you could attend a local class or even go for a bike ride with friends.
The release of endorphins – those feel-good hormones- from exercising can help reduce tension and allow the mind to focus on something other than worries and concerns. Some even find that exercising allows them to ‘get all their ducks in a row’ – in other words, helps them to organise their life.
Stephen Bradford, senior mental health advisor adds that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week can have a significant effect. “There’s some suggestion that, for mild depression, moderate exercise is as effective as medication and cognitive behaviour therapy,” he explains.
Talking to someone
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a weekly counselling session, but that isolation can have an extremely negative impact on your happiness. Sometimes accepting you need a little help is the first step to feeling better.
Speak to your friends – they are probably feeling the same way you are. Talk to your family too – after all, they know you the best! Some studies have suggested that socialising with a friend just once every week can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood. So organise a coffee catch up and get chatting.
When you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount and complexity of university work, one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve productivity is to start managing your time properly.
Planning each day and prioritising tasks in order of deadline and importance will help you get through the mound of work you have to do. Do not put off the work that you know you hate the most, tackle it first, get it over and done with!
Another tip is set yourself a goal and reward. Complete a certain amount of work by a particular time and once its finished reward yourself; catch up on your favourite TV show or go out for dinner.
When times are stressful and you’ve exhausted every other avenue, mindfulness is a wonderful relaxation technique. Originally found in Buddhism, is has been used to improve physical and mental health, with the incredible results of significantly lowering stress levels.
It is often practised through deep breathing, reflectiveness and guided meditation. Don’t know where to start with mindfulness? There is a fabulous and highly recommended book called ‘Mindfulness for life – a six week guide to inner peace’ by Oli Doyle, which is available through most libraries, as well as free apps such as Calm and Headspace which can provide you with a beginners guide.
Mindfulness expert, Professor Mark Williams, also features a series of breathing and visualisation techniques in his audio podcasts – check them out!
If you or anyone you know is dealing with significant levels of stress and you think you might be struggling with mental health and need professional help, then please contact your university welfare team. Or alternatively check out mind.org.uk
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