TLDRoff
Managing university life can be stressful for many students. Preparing assignments, meeting deadlines, revising and taking exams, can make you feel anxious and stressed.

In addition to this, many students are juggling jobs, family, and other commitments alongside their studies. Balancing the demands of studying with other commitments, can add to the feelings of pressure and stress.

Most people find that a bit of pressure spurs us on and enables us to get down and do some serious work. The important distinction is that manageable levels of stress can provide us with the adrenalin for motivation, whereas too much can leave you feeling overwhelmed and can affect your ability to function. Knowing how to manage stress and cope with the demands of exams and assignments is key. Techniques for managing stress can vastly improve your university experience and will ensure that stress is not affecting your academic performance, or your health!

The university has a serious commitment to student well-being and and disability support and you will be able to find a great deal of information about what is on offer to you here: Student Well-Being Support.

Checklist Guide

There are lots of things you can do to help yourself cope with the pressure of academic study. Here are just a few suggestions. You can find more help in the Further Information section.

Dealing with course related stress:

  • Set realistic goals for yourself. You could try using objectives that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound)
  • Do not overwhelm yourself by considering your entire workload at once. Divide the tasks associated with each course, or assessment, into smaller elements that you can cope with
  • Plan your work ahead, and schedule time for each element. Our article on Managing your time offers more specific advice on planning ahead and dividing up your time
  • Prioritise tasks that you must complete
  • Don't leave things until the last minute
  • Do talk to other students, they can offer support, spur you on and help you realise that you are not the only one feeling under pressure

Looking after yourself:

  • Exercise: Taking regular exercise and keeping fit, generally means you are better able to cope with stress. Participating in half an hour of physical exercise (that which raises your heart beat and leaves you out of breath) is also a great stress buster, but even something like a brisk walk in the fresh air can clear your mind and help you sleep better
  • Diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important. It is tempting, when you are studying hard for exams or assessments, to go for foods and drinks with sugar and caffeine. These gives short bursts of energy, but this is soon followed by a slump in energy. In addition, too much caffeine can cause irritability and insomnia
  • Sleep: Another major factor that contributes to physical health and your ability to study well, is sleep. Getting a regular 8 hours a night will boost your general wellbeing, but will also mean you are better able to concentrate on your work. Managing your time well and planning your work, should mean that you avoid having to sacrifice sleep to meet that assignment deadline, or cram for your exam!
  • Take breaks: It is not a good idea to work for extended periods of time without a break. If you have been studying intensively for a while, you should take a break, even if this is just taking 5-10 minutes to get up, stretch, and have a walk about. Without regular breaks, your concentration may lapse and reading that chapter, or writing that paragraph may take a lot more mental effort than it should!
  • Use relaxation techniques: There are many forms of relaxation and you should find one that suits you and your lifestyle. Some things you could try are meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and mindfulness, to name a few. There are many great websites, books, videos and DVDs that can provide advice and guidance. The University libraries hold books and DVDs on some of these relaxation techniques
  • Create a personal support system: It is important to have a network of people who can support you through your time at university. At times when you feel pressured, or stressed, it is important to talk and draw on the support of these people. They will nurture and console you, or just listen whilst you let off steam. Talking to classmates can allow you to see that you are not the only one feeling significant pressure before an exam or deadline. If you feel you are unable to talk to those around you, then the University Wellbeing office can be a source of support for you.
  • Use positive thinking: It is possible to conquer negative thoughts of 'I can't do this' by using positive thinking, or positive affirmations. It may help to write out a list of positive statements and say them to yourself, or stick them up somewhere where you will see them regularly, to give yourself a boost of confidence

Check out the University's guide to stress busting techniques

Further Comments

University life is enjoyable and rewarding, but it is not without its challenges. Juggling the commitments of study with the rest of your life can be demanding, so it is important to look after yourself, particularly at times of increased pressure.

Almost all courses will have formal examinations and assessed work as a way of monitoring progress and grading qualifications. It is important to remember that most people feel some anxiety about what mark they will achieve, and almost everyone feels significant pressure before exams – but there are lots of things you can do to help yourself cope.

Knowing how to cope with the demands of university life, exams and assignments, can vastly improve the experience for you and ensure you do yourself justice in your academic work.

Further Information

The Wellbeing office at the University of Greenwich offer a range of support in order to help you achieve your full personal and academic potential. From confidential one-to-one counselling, to motivational and self-development group workshops, their services are available to help guide and support you during your university experience. 

Other useful sources:

Mind: How to cope with student life

Open University: Managing stress