Being at university is heaps of fun, and there’s so much to do and get involved in. While your years at uni will be guaranteed to include some of the best days of your life, there will inevitably be times when pressure mounts and you feel a bit stressed out. But try not to let it get to you - manage that stress and stop it in its tracks. Lee Brown is a current undergrad student at UEA - here's a rundown of his top tips to avoid getting stressed out and what to do if the going gets tough.
Get the balance right
This can be tricky and there is an art to getting the social life/study equation right. It’s all well and good bombing into university and thinking that you’ll do just fine socialising, joining societies/clubs, going to the LCR each week, and juggling assignments. Some people can manage it, while others will just burn themselves out. Make sure you plan for success and don't overload, keep your own diary and make sure you manage your time effectively by leaving time free to study or simply rest your weary mind to keep stress at bay.
Work out your priorities
It helps if you can work out early where your priorities lie - and hopefully studying ranks quite highly. If not, chances are you’ll find yourself under a mountain of stress and deadlines at the end of the semester. Remember that you’ll have assessments through the academic year, both summative and formative, and studying will always take a lot longer than you think. Everyone learns and absorbs information differently so your priorities may be different from those around you.
Don’t leave it to the last minute!
I know it’s a cliché, but try and start early, and don’t leave everything to the last minute. Most people will procrastinate and try to avoid the inevitable night in in front of the computer (and if they say they don’t, then it’s likely that they’re telling porkies). Sometimes you do have to say no and stay in. Just remember that there will be other nights out and sometimes staying in and starting that essay will bring benefits in the long run. Maintaining a healthy work / life balance will help you to keep a positive attitude towards university and ensure any potential stress is minimised.
Step back. Take a breath. Reevaluate the situation. No matter how much you have to do and no matter how you prioritise things, you come first. Find out what works for you and how you can find the calm in the storm. If you need time alone, then no one will judge you for needing space, and you don’t have to stay in your room. Here’s some ideas of things to do right on the UEA doorstep:
- Get outside! You’ll be studying on a campus set in beautiful parkland. The UEA Broad is great to walk around and clear out the cobwebs (also visit the donkeys close by!) - have a look at Georgia's blog to get a better idea
- The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a very peaceful space to clear your head, and has a whole collection for you to experience and contemplate within. Student blogger Anne-Sophie is a frequent visitor
- And remember the library is not just there for course books, but has tons of fiction, non-fiction, music and DVDs for you to get lost in
- If being active is your thing, visit the Sportspark. Go to a group exercise class, have a swim, have a go on the climbing wall, or join a sports team
- Take a break - campus comes equipped with multiple cafes and bars, perfect for that quick (or slightly longer) social meet up
- Join one or more of the 200 clubs and societies on offer. You’ll meet like-minded people and extend your social circle outside of your flat and your course. So if work is getting a bit stressful, or tensions are rising on the domestic front, you’ll have other things to talk about! There’s lots on offer from arm wrestling and circus skills, to yoga!
Sometimes life gets in the way…
UEA is such an inclusive campus with a community feel, that sometimes it can be easy to forget that you have a life outside, and that the real world can interfere. Friends, family, part-time jobs, old relationships, existing health issues; they can all flare up and make things more stressful than you anticipated. Just because you’re at uni, doesn’t mean you need to forget these things, or brush them under the carpet. If life does hand you a bowl of bitter lemons, help is at hand.
Talk it out
Getting everything out in the open can make a huge difference to your wellbeing by helping you see more clearly and allowing you to prioritise tasks more effectively. Family and friends may seem like the obvious chocie for venting about stress but UEA's Student Support Service can also help with problems beyond your studies. Remember that both your mental and physical health are the most important things. Never let your degree do damage to either of these, if you’re able to help it.
There are also welfare groups on campus, led by students, for students. Peer support is key, and examples of this come from a couple of groups from the UEA Students' Union: UEA Minds and UEA Pride are just two groups who are there to help you out in any way they can!
UEA even incorporates events from outside services and charities. One example, for those who are animal lovers, is Pets as Therapy.
I hope this gives you a bit of an insight into what to expect from university life, with some tips for keeping both your mind and body healthy; and if things don’t go quite to plan, there are people there to support you.