The past several months, COVID-19 has undoubtedly added a crazy amount of stress to all of our lives, but for uni students that stress isn’t about to go away any time soon. With the return to campus fast approaching, it’s become even more important for us to have strategies in place for coping with this added stress.
The past several months have been, to put it lightly, a huge source of stress for everyone, no matter if you’ve been working, doing remote learning, living at home with family, or living on your own. As the government loves to say, we are living through unprecedented times, and we’ll feel the impact of this year for a while to come. Considering all of this, it’s clear that now more than ever we need to take extra good care of ourselves, and I’d like to shine some light on what we can do to protect ourselves as uni students, both physically and mentally, from the uncertain and challenging times ahead.
If you’re like me, you’ve got countless unanswered questions swirling around in your mind right now, and no one really knows who to listen to; the government guidance has been wishy-washy at best. The good thing is, none of us are alone in our worrying, and the feeling of being totally out of touch and uncertain about what comes next? That feeling seems to be quite common among uni students these days. While it’s obviously important to keep up to date on the pandemic situation where you’ll be studying, so you have the proper info to keep yourself healthy, what’s even more important is that we take care of ourselves and prepare the best we can for the academic year ahead.
Now, we all know that stress is a normal part of uni life, and that it can even help us, pushing us to meet deadlines and perform our best — however, this year has birthed a whole other level of stress from COVID, and that’s likely to be playing on our minds even when we aren’t focusing on it. That means that now, more than ever, it’s vital to have some coping strategies in place to help you manage that increased stress. (For advice on how to ease out of lockdown, read this). One thing that can help us get ahead of the inevitable uni-stress is to identify the things that usually stress you out.
For example, if you know you always get really stressed about coursework or essay writing, you can dig into that ahead of time and make a plan to manage it better. This could be practicing an essay outline that works for you, sticking a note to your wall with the correct referencing method, or getting a head start on the key readings or course materials if they’re available. It can even be helpful to simply write down the parts of uni that stress you out the most, as this can help you feel more prepared when they arise.
Another thing that can help us prepare for and manage stress is identifying potential causes of stress. If you’re like me, you’re probably a bit stressed out about the in-person side of teaching — and maybe even more worried about the social side of uni — simply because of the challenge it poses to social distancing. Stress like this can feel a bit harder to prepare for, simply because we aren’t always in control of these situations. Nevertheless, I’ve got a few coping strategies that help me worry less in situations where social distancing is questionable, and might help you, too:
Some other simple ways to manage stress, or even just to quiet a busy mind, could be colouring, drawing, journaling (there’s an app for that) — these types of creative activities keep your mind occupied, give your hands something to do when you feel anxious, and can also help you express your worries and emotions. Using mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace, or even just taking a half an hour to stick on a podcast can be useful when we need to decompress. Personally, I listen to this true crime podcast when I want to chill out, but murder mysteries aren’t everyone’s cup of tea!
It’s important to find the coping strategies that work for you; this is not a one-size fits all scenario. Check out the Things to Try page on our website, and try different things until one of them sticks — you may find that different activities help at different times of the day, or for different moods, and that’s important to recognise about yourself!
No matter what you’re feeling, you’re not alone, and there are resources available through your uni to help you when you’re struggling. First year is a big transition for everyone, and it can really help to share your concerns with the people around you — they might very well be in the same boat!
Whatever support systems you already have, hold onto those when you start uni, because they’ll come in handy. Maybe you and your mum had a routine of watching the morning news together during lockdown, or you’d rant to your sister weekly about the state of the world, or you’d ring your friend from home for a chat when quarantine got a bit too lonely; those support systems will be so helpful during your first year, especially with the added stress of COVID. It’s always important to have people to chat to when you need it, as first year — even with all the Give It A Go sessions and new friends — can feel very isolating, simply because it’s such a massive change. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, happy, or sad, friends and family can be key pillars of support.
The trick is to find ways to manage your stress that work for you, and to not be afraid to set aside time throughout your week to prioritise organising your thoughts and preparing yourself for the next task.
(For more advice on coping with the stress of uni, head on over to this post.)
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