Managing student stress: A how-to guide on dealing with anxiety at university

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University can be a very exciting, yet stressful, time in a young person’s life.

Moving away from home, navigating a new city, making new friends and studying at degree-level can unsurprisingly be overwhelming for many students.

The key is to find balance through stress management mechanisms.

In this blog, we will discuss the causes of student stress and how best to manage them, providing a how-to guide on the top tips on how to reduce stress and improve mental health.

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What is stress?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, stress can be defined as;

“The feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. You may find yourself overloaded with new information from your course, feeling the pressure to make new friends or struggling to live away from home in a foreign place.” 

If this seems to mirror how you’re feeling, there’s no need to worry – you’re not alone!

Almost half of students reported that they were feeling stressed at university by the NatWest Student Living Index 2021.

What causes student stress?

Every student feels the strain of stress at some point during their university life – including my peers and I.

Our discussions would often revolve around our collective stress, from talking about our financial worries to our exasperations over late night library sessions.

The common causes of student stress include, but are not limited to: 

  • The workload at university tends to be quite a jump from that previously experienced at secondary school and college.

    For many students, the leap in educational expectations makes it difficult to effectively manage time around different coursework and exam deadlines, often causing worry.

  • At university, there is also a real pressure to create new and lasting relationships with housemates, course peers and fellow society members, alongside the strain of maintaining old relationships – an overwhelming task.

  • Managing finances for the first time independently can prove tricky; figuring out how to budget, factoring in rent, bills and other living expenses, can create anxiety for most students (not to mention the stress that comes with going over your overdraft limit)!

  • Feeling homesick is perfectly natural when you find yourself in a new place. Moving to university is the first time many students have ever lived away from the family home, leaving behind friends, family, and the comfort of a familiar environment. All of this can feel very isolating.

How do you deal with stress?

Learning how to cope with stress is really important in order to achieve a healthy mental wellbeing and make the most out of your time at university.

Here are some useful tips on how to reduce stress and anxiety at university:  


  • Stressed about deadlines? Plan ahead

Start by listing your coursework and exam deadlines in chronological order.

Then, make a timetable you are likely to (at least loosely) follow, allowing sufficient time to complete each task by using lectures and additional reading resources.

It’s also important to have a work-life balance to prevent yourself from burning out, so make sure you plan some time to do things that you enjoy too.


  • Feeling isolated? Embrace the new

It is daunting to make new friends, especially if you’re shy or socially anxious. But don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

Living in student accommodation is a great way to meet new people, alongside lectures and seminars with potential course mates.

Joining societies and going on socials is also a useful way to find like-minded people.

At university, it is key to remember that everyone is in the same boat and will be as keen to make friends as you are!

Once you start hanging out with new people, you might start studying together or engaging in adventurous activities.

One of these activities could be bike riding; for city riding and light trail excursions, you can always go with a beach cruiser electric bike.


  • Financial worries? Manage your money

Start by making a budget using an excel spreadsheet.

Log your monetary intake from student loans, part-time jobs and any other means of income, subtracting the essential expenses such as rent and bills you have monthly.

This will leave you with the amount of disposable income you have every month – the key then is to not overspend! If you do find yourself in financial trouble, there will be resources and advice available through your university.


  • Feeling homesick? Bring home to you

Bring some familiarity into your dorm or student house through photos and mementos.

Stay in contact with your friends and family through social media and regular messaging – it’s a great way to check in.

If you’re an international student, there will be societies specifically catered to the international student community, which can serve as a means by which you still retain the cultural comforts of home.


  • Burnt out? Practice self-care

Remember to treat yourself! Sometimes all you need is a bit of self-care to make yourself feel better – whether it’s through a relaxing bath or a quick pint with your mate.

Taking time out of your day to exercise is also a great way to look after your physical and mental health. Another beneficial habit to your wellness is to create a workout routine that you can maintain for a long time.

Exercising with the right equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells or treadmills is a great way to start.

Exercising and partaking in sports is a more active way to practice self-care, exerting your negative feelings through physical means.

The same can also be said for other hobbies, such as learning an instrument or a language.

What should you do if you’re overwhelmed by stress?

Although university can be challenging, there are many coping mechanisms that you can put into place to help reduce stress and anxiety.

However, if the stress gets overwhelming, there are also external coping mechanisms available through your university’s wellbeing team.

The purpose of your university’s wellbeing team is to offer students mental health support, from general advice to counselling services.

They can help by enabling you to express your concerns in a safe environment, allowing you to work through your problems with a trained professional.

This help will be free, so be sure to make use of it if necessary!

There are also helpful resources via the NHS and mental health charities:


All in all, it is vital to remember that if the stress gets too much, there is no shame in asking for help!

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