Life as a student can be stressful. Between deadlines, leaving home for the first time, money struggles, and so on, student life can be fraught with anxiety.
Naturally, this is only exacerbated by the pandemic. Now more than ever, it is essential that students take steps to manage their stress. Here we outline five simple ways students can stay on top of their anxiety during these increasingly uncertain times.
The first step to managing anxiety and stress is to understand it. Anxiety is a spectrum of conditions, and it affects different people in different ways. For instance, while your anxiety might be caused by COVID, you may still have specific triggers that exacerbate it.
As such, it is well worth taking the time to identify and understand your anxiety and stress factors.
There are a few different kinds of anxiety disorder, but the most common types include:
Understanding your anxiety in terms of the above also helps you identify possible triggers too.
The effects of COVID can act as triggers for many of these. For example, germaphobes, in particular, might experience increased anxiety, while someone with OCD might find their symptoms exacerbated by spending increased time in one space.
It’s worth keeping a diary and monitoring flare-ups of stress or anxiety when they happen. This helps you identify particular triggering situations, which in turn will help you formulate coping strategies and build positive routines that avoid such triggers.
In some cases, it may be appropriate to consider medication as a means of managing your anxiety. Naturally, such a decision should not be undertaken lightly, and you should do your research beforehand.
There are lots of different types of anti-anxiety medication available, but propranolol is a good place to start. Rather than taking one tablet daily (as with other medications), propranolol is taken as a short-term means of managing anxiety.
As such, taking propranolol for anxiety is particularly useful for helping you manage temporary stresses (such as COVID). Indeed, many propranolol reviews attest to its efficacy for managing similar short-term situational anxieties triggered, such as exams or presentations.
Look at propranolol as an aid, rather than a cure. Rather than relying on it entirely, it can help you become more accustomed to particularly stressful situations caused or exacerbated by COVID. Over time, you may find it easier to manage events or triggers that make you anxious.
It has been repeated so often that it’s almost a cliche, but exercise remains one of the single best things you can do for your mental health.
For starters, exercise gets you out of your home and into a new environment. This helps you break the cycle of negative thoughts through the introduction of new stimulations.
But the benefits of exercise for managing anxiety and stress go beyond simply getting out of the house and into new surroundings.
Physical activity impacts your body on a chemical level, creating a positive environment within your body that supports mental positivity.
Exercise releases mood-boosting hormones into the body, including endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These help regulate our mood and give us a sense of wellbeing on a chemical level — a powerful way to manage anxiety and stress on a physiological level.
If you are new to exercise, take it slow — don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling at first. Start small and increase your workout over time, and you will find it easier to continue with your fitness journey.
When you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, it’s easy to get trapped in your own head. The cycle of negative thoughts runs on a loop in your mind, and with no other perspective than your own to challenge them, they magnify until they are too much to bear.
It is important, therefore, to talk to someone. This could be a friend or class mate, or, if your social circle at university is small, consider reaching out to a family member, a university counsellor, or even a therapist.
Articulating your anxieties is cathartic in itself. But beyond this, it also gives you the opportunity to get a fresh perspective on your worries. With a second pair of eyes, anxieties appear much smaller and more manageable.
You might also find that your friend is experiencing the same concerns, which again helps you perceive your own worries in a more positive light.
At the very least, consider writing out your concerns onto paper. This provides relief by simply expressing your anxieties, while also getting a fresh perspective by seeing them written down, outside of your own head.
As students, it’s easy to neglect self-care. Between essay deadlines, tight budgets, and concerns around COVID, your priorities might be focused elsewhere, rather than on activities that you enjoy and relax you.
But self-care is more than an indulgence — it is a necessity. Your mind and body is like a car. Without regular check-ups and maintenance, it will struggle to do its job.
Meditation and mindfulness is rapidly gaining traction in the mainstream as an effective method of relaxation. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer guided meditation exercises via your smartphone, particularly useful for people new (or sceptical) to the practice.
Alternatively, even a simple bubble bath (or shower) with soothing music is enough to calm the senses.
An essential part of relaxing is sleep. A good night’s sleep can dramatically improve your mental (and physical) wellbeing, and yet it is also one of the most undervalued elements of self-care.
Anxiety is often worse at night, with no other stimulation to distract you from the negative cycle. As such, it’s essential that you build a positive bedtime routine.
Avoid using screens (smartphones, tablets, etc) at least an hour before bed, as this affects your circadian rhythms and makes it harder to sleep — this piece explains why in depth. Similarly, try not to drink any fluids at least two hours before bed to ensure you don’t need the toilet during the night.
Relaxing isn’t an indulgence — it’s an essential part of our mental health, and should be prioritised the same as your physical health too.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused immense stress and anxiety for all of us. But humans are remarkably resilient creatures, and with some self-care and mental health management, we are capable of weathering even the most stressful of situations.
Follow the tips above and build a positive routine into your life that supports you and your mental health. Prioritise self-care, understand your triggers, and make time to speak with someone. With time, you will find managing your anxiety easier as a result.
Wellbeing support available from The Students' Union and UWE Bristol