According to this study, the most common student stressors are related to academia. This highlights that being a student can bring about a range of unforeseen stresses and anxieties unrelated to other areas of your life. According to the study, working for exams, grinding through assessment periods, meeting deadlines, and managing the academic workload were within the top six common stress points. Other stressors included worries about ineffective time management and problems with procrastination.
For students, these stressors are glaringly obvious. However, when you consider the many other factors of university life, such as navigating new social environments, managing finances, and moving away from home – it’s interesting that academic stressors are still the most common. Other stressors related to personal and social expectations, for instance, getting good grades and not wanting to disappoint family, appeared less immediately significant.
Similarly, another study found students experienced ‘self-imposed’ stressors, such as wanting to compete and win or be liked by everyone. Again, this highlights the key role that our own expectations play in the stress we experience. These students also reported ‘pressure’ stressors, for example, because of competing over grades, work or relationships with their friends, and from overloading themselves with too many responsibilities. Have you found yourself experiencing stress for similar reasons? Being a student, trying to meet all these demands and expectations is understandably stressful. But it seems like we might cause ourselves more distress than our studies do.
Here are some tips on how to overcome these stressors!
Addressing the Academic Stressors
Naturally, exams and assignments will cause some stress. But you can control how you respond to and manage this stress. First, it’s best if you can start developing your time management skills. Just like other skills, time management can be learnt and will be a worthwhile investment. There are many ways to organise your time, so take some time to figure out what works for you. For both exams and assignments, preparing in advance can help you to avoid feeling stressed.
However, this doesn’t have to take up too much time if you have deadlines or classes that need prioritising. It can be small bursts of revision using a retrospective revision timetable, or keeping notes of resources that might be useful for the assignment you’ll be writing at the end of your module. If you aim to manage your time and plan ahead, even if you find yourself battling bouts of procrastination, you’ll still be on track!
Our own expectations can cause us a great deal of stress. In an academic environment, it’s easy to slip into competitive or unhealthy mindsets. You might feel that you must get good grades, or do a multitude of extracurriculars to keep up with your friends. You can work on having more realistic expectations by trying to live in the moment, taking things day by day. This sets your focus to what you can achieve in that space of time. You’ll feel accomplished more often instead of waiting for big achievements.
Additionally, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Your best is good enough! Take some time to acknowledge your accomplishments, and positive qualities. Or, share your worries with friends you trust. Friends often see you progress and grow in ways that you might forget. Likewise, talking about expectations can help when dealing with the social expectations that are out of your control. Having such conversations with family or colleagues might reveal that they’re not holding you to the high expectations you have in mind. Or, you might realise your friends also feel pressured to achieve in an unrealistic way. You can read more about managing high expectations here.