Written by Jess Mell - final year Nutrition and Public Health student
We all know the feeling, but whether I agree with it as a term that is thrown around so often is another matter. To me, ‘academic stress’ feels as though it is something everyone must experience, otherwise you are not trying hard enough- but it is not the case.
Lectures about assignments, endless talks about the value of extracurricular activities and the pile of washing accumulating in the corner of your bedroom- university is one big juggling act. It is a far reach from the fun and games most people think that they are signing up to, although, I do appreciate that this varies between different people and their motivations for being here. Personally, over the two years that I have been at university I have tried, sometimes failed, but mostly triumphed in creating a good balance of work and life. I will admit that my non-drinking lifestyle helps by creating more time in a morning and freeing up an entire Sunday, but that doesn’t mean that I spend all of that time doing academic work. It is all about using that time to look after yourself, do something you enjoy and relax with those around you. University is a fantastic experience, and it is also 3 whole years of your life- don’t forget that.
I am fortunate that I have amazing friends and family, who are incredibly supportive and great listeners. Having previously suffered with a severe eating disorder leading to hospitalisation just 3 years ago, it was important for me to have a sort of action plan to prevent relapse and maintain good mental health whilst returning to university. This was a challenge at first, but I knew all of the steps I needed to take in order to achieve this goal, the first being to talk.
I am incredibly open about my past experiences, but I am also incredibly open about how I feel right now. Whether it is to my best friends, my parents, the nurse or my boyfriend, I have people around me that I can talk to. However, there are also plenty of people within the Students’ Union that I know I could speak to if I was struggling, as well as academic staff. They are prepared to listen; you just have to be prepared to talk.
I know that extracurricular activities are sold as being the key addition to your CV, but they provide so much more than that. This was my second step- walking up to Michael’s desk in the volunteering hub and signing up to a project, literally on the day I arrived at university. I knew that this project would be a regular activity that I could look forward to throughout the week. It encouraged me to get out of my flat and meet new people. It also helped to boost my confidence and give me a break from the routine of lectures, seminars and assessments. I often joke that I forget I am studying for a degree because I spend so much time getting involved with other projects, but this is what makes me happy and without it I think I would really struggle.
The last thing that I want to mention is exercise. This is a new thing that I have started this year and I absolutely love it. My housemate and I attend a Clubbercise class just a few doors down from our house, and every Wednesday we arm ourselves with our glow sticks and head to the class. It is so much fun and for that one hour I forget about everything and enjoy myself. Check out Hallam’s Social Sports timetable, or look at Pop-Pilates or Zumba that is on offer at the HUBS, you don’t have to commit yourself to an expensive gym membership, just have a go at something new and have fun!
At the end of the day, there are so many challenges that university throws at you and there is not one thing that works for everyone in order to tackle that. It’s a case of trial and error, but I would encourage everyone to reach out and talk to people rather than suffering in silence. Just remind yourself that everyone is going through the same thing, but everyone has a unique way of dealing with it. Speak to people, find out what works for them, you might learn a new breathing technique, or a time management strategy. However you get through the ‘academic stress’, just remind yourself that you are not alone and support is out there. Don’t let it get too much and don’t overwhelm yourself.
Remember, it is 3 years of your life that you will never get back- it’s important to look after yourself!