Everyone gets stressed.
It’s a crazy time of year for uni students. With exams, assignments and major project deadlines looming, it’s pretty difficult to maintain your sanity – especially when you’re having to work and pay rent at the same time. It’s important to remember that while it’s a busy time of year, we can’t allow ourselves to get buried under the weight of responsibility. Sure, you want to do well, you might even want to make your parents proud – while all of that is important, don’t write your well-being out of the equation.
A lot of the time we can chalk potentially harmful mental health issues down to the stress of an exam or assignment. But how do we differentiate between the two? How do we know when to act on our stress and anxiety levels and acknowledge when we might need more than a study break to fix the problem? Ask yourself the following…
Do you often feel tired out for no good reason?
If you find that your motivation and energy is at an all-time low, you might need to pay a little more attention to yourself. Of course we all get tired from late night study sessions or rushing to meet deadlines, but if you can’t find the energy to go outside, see your friends or even make yourself dinner, there might be something else going on.
How often do you feel nervous or anxious?
Exams bring out anxiousness in all of us. But to what degree? Jitters and nerves are natural around this time of year, but if you’re finding that it’s a constant feeling you have, it’s time to start paying attention to the signs. If you’re feeling panicked, you have problems sleeping, shortness of breath or nothing can calm you down, reach out to a friend, speak to an RA or visit your GP. There is a difference between exam stress and an anxiety attack.
Are you eating well?
Put plainly, no one really eats well during exam time. We’re all snacking on junk food and eating frozen dinners for a few weeks so to spend every waking moment on exam prep. What’s important is to spot the difference between the occasional fast food dinner and unhealthy eating habits. If you’ve lost your appetite, or you’re over-eating, it may be due to elevated levels of stress or distraction. We all need to eat and get the nourishment we need to get through stressful times, but if a substantial meal is the last thing on your mind, you may need to consider why that is.
How is your concentration?
One of the first things to go when you’re feeling depressed or experiencing anxiety is your concentration. There’s just nothing that can hold your attention for more than a few seconds – minutes if you’re lucky. Restlessness both during the day and when you’re trying to sleep can be an early sign that it may be more than just uni stress. If your inability to concentrate or get work done is leading to feelings of worthlessness or depression, please continue reading.
How can I get help?
The great thing about living on campus is that there are so many options available to you. There are on-campus counselling services that specialise in exam and uni stress, but they are also able to assist or refer you onto a specialist that will be able to help with any ongoing experiences of depression or anxiety. If you’re not sure where to go, another option is to speak to your local GP. They will have a variety of counselling services to refer you to, and usually you can take your pick of the counsellor you prefer.
If seeking out professional advice is a little daunting (which is common and understandable) you can also speak to someone in a less official sense. There are student services, societies and activities dedicated to reducing stress during these busy times of Semester. You also have your Village RA’s or admin staff members that can speak to you regularly and even refer you on to a service that works best for you.
Just remember that there are plenty of options, if you want to start looking. Be aware of the signs and any changes in yourself that you might find discomforting or concerning. In all likelihood you are one of many that are going through the same thing, and you don’t have to bear the weight of depression and anxiety by yourself.
Below are a few suggested services for university students and young adults in Australia: