This time of year is very busy for university students and staff. For students, it could be exam time, meaning that revision activities are being completed. For staff, it could be the time of marking or teaching preparation ready for the beginning of the semester.
Around this time of year, you often find that sleeping patterns are disrupted, and eating habits deviate from whatever is normal for you.
One group who may be feeling extra pressure at this time of year are final-year undergraduate students who are months away from completing the degree. The students in their final year understand that this upcoming semester is a busy one and the final one that contributes towards the final degree classification.
Unlike in the first and second years, the third year does not provide much opportunity to resit exams and coursework if students fail during the final year of the degree. As students tend to graduate over the summer (June or July), they need to ensure that all work is completed to be awarded their final degree classification.
As an educator, I have witnessed many students facing stress at this time of year. In most cases, a little reassurance helps, as I tell my students that it is normal to feel stressed or a little bit busy at this time of year. There are six things I tend to point out to my students about what they may be able to do to reduce the effects of stress while they are studying. You can see these suggestions below.
When we talk about self-care, we don’t mean go and have a nice hot bubble bath or light some candles, but instead, do something for yourself that can help you to relax. This could be listening to music, completing a hobby, or simply doing anything that does not involve university work. It’s a case of setting a boundary and having time away from university work, even for an hour or two a week.
One of the worst things a university student can do at this time of year is to eat lots of takeaways or junk food. These types of food have little nutritional value, and while they fill us up and make us less hungry, they don’t provide us with the nutrients to develop energy.
Have a weekly plan
As this time of year can be hectic, one of the things a student can do is make a weekly plan of their time. So, students may block certain hours in their diaries for revision and other times for employment or university work.
By doing this, students will be able to tick off when they have completed tasks, and in turn, this will lessen the stress of not knowing what to do and when. A great skill to have is time management.
Have screen breaks
This time of year is when students use their laptops and technical devices for revision. At times, revision activities may not be completed, which can mean that other online activities, such as checking social media, may encourage heavy use of screens.
Having a screen break every 30 minutes will help the more physical aspects, such as eyesight and posture (back and neck if they are sore), but it also allows the mind to refocus on the activities that should be completed.
Some people believe you have to be unwell or struggling to seek support. That is not the case. If you find that you are overloaded with your daily activities and cannot fit them in, seek support from a tutor or friend to discuss whether this is normal (chances are, it’s completely normal).
If you find that your health is suffering as a result of lots of revision or work, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a GP or a support service such as Mind, which will be able to support aspects of both physical and mental health.
Yes, you are busy and need to focus on university and/or revision, but you cannot do this if you are exhausted. My advice here is to put yourself first whenever you can. This means going to bed at a sensible time and when you are tired but also ensuring that you take the time to relax and enjoy things that you normally would outside your educational life.
A good thing to remember is that the 6 points above are only suggestions. You, as an individual, will know what helps with stress at this time of year and what does not help. When you find everything becoming a lot to deal with, that is the time to seek support from someone you can confide in.
Laura Jenkins, PhD is a teaching associate in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University.