Taking up further study can be a very exciting time as we take a step forward in our personal and professional lives. As we challenge ourselves to develop new skills and knowledge, a new framework to work from, and a new field to master, many of us embrace the role of student with both enthusiasm and anticipation. However, it is not uncommon for most students, at some point in their course, to also experience a heightened level of anxiety. During these more difficult times it is important to keep things in perspective.

Everybody experiences stress in their lives from time to time but it is the way stressful situations are perceived and dealt with that can determine one’s learning experience. Stress can be a positive thing as it gives us the drive and energy to focus, take action, and achieve our goals, but when the stress goes on for too long, it can be overwhelming.

Stress affects everyone differently and it is important to recognise how it may impact on you. Students experiencing stress, often report experiencing:

  1. Nausea, stomach aches, headaches
  2. Feelings of anger, sadness, or nervousness
  3. Fear of failure, fear of the future or unknown
  4. Feeling overwhelmed, confused, worried
  5. Trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or relaxing
  6. Excessive tiredness or fatigue

Often when we are feeling stressed, it is difficult to know what to do and quite often we end up responding how we think we should respond, rather than listening to ourselves. When we begin to feel like the assessments are building up, when it is difficult to know where to start, or you feel like you are just not getting it, this is the time to become proactive. There are things you can do to manage your stress and stay motivated:

  1. Avoid isolating yourself and talk to someone about how you are feeling. Make use of all the study assistance that is available to you.
  2. Identify the cause of the stress. Determine the things you can change and the things that may require time or help from others. Large problems can often be broken down into smaller problems such as breaking an assessment piece into smaller parts.
  3. Take care of yourself and prevent the negative impacts of stress worsening — pay close attention to your diet, exercise and sleep patterns. Physical activity can clear the mind, release anxious energy and improve sleep. Make sure that you make time for these things in your study routine.
  4. When confronted by a stressful situation, make a conscious effort to slow down. Take ten long breaths and try visualising the word relax. Avoid letting your mind getting stuck on one idea and challenge negative thoughts.
  5. Be kind to yourself and reward yourself for the small achievements!

Studying a new course involves challenging oneself, learning new ways of interacting, and developing new understanding. The learning journey of a student is full of both rewards and challenges. Keeping stress in perspective will allow you to enjoy a balanced learning experience where you feel empowered to make the most of your studies.

Good luck!