Advice and development

Try the lighter side of stress management

Managing stress is about looking after yourself. But it doesn’t have to feel like another task – it can be fun.

Managing stress is about looking after yourself. But it doesn’t have to feel like another task – it can be fun

There are small, fun ways to cope with ongoing demands. Picture: iStock

As a student, it can be easy to feel lost as you struggle against the tide of increasing pressures. At university you are juggling lectures, tutorials and assignment deadlines, and while on practice placements your energy is consumed by trying to fit in with the team and learning another set of clinical skills.

You know you have to look after yourself, and this means finding the time to eat well and exercise and having the discipline to establish good sleeping habits. All of these will help you cope with stress, yet they can also feel like more tasks on the never-ending to-do list.

In the moment 

There are small, fun ways to cope with ongoing demand – consider the universities that are now looking at using dog therapy to help students with rising stress levels. Who wouldn’t feel calmer playing with a four-legged friend? But just because something is obvious, doesn’t mean it won’t work. There are many easily available, fun ways to de-stress, and by unlocking positive energy, they can make it easier to look after yourself. 

If the following suggestions don’t appeal, disregard them, with the exception of ‘live in the moment’, everyone should try that. But otherwise, do whatever it is that gives you joy.   

Fun ways to reduce stress

  • Eat chocolate: There is some evidence that eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate every day can help to reduce stress. So go for it and enjoy some guilt-free treats.
  • Get dirty: Gardening can be therapeutic and grounding. It is satisfying to dig through the earth and watch as your plants or vegetables come to life. If you don’t have access to an outside space, see if there are any local community projects you could help with.
  • Have a giggle: Laughter can help to lift your mood. It is also highly contagious, so get some classmates together and watch funny YouTube clips or tell silly jokes.
  • Sing: Singing encourages you to expand your lungs and relax. There is evidence that performing music creates an endorphin high and that singing in a choir contributes to psychological well-being.  
  • Live in the moment: Children are often much better than adults at focusing on the joy of what they are doing in a particular moment. So get in touch with your inner child and spend time totally engaged with the things that give you pleasure. It will help distract you from worries, increase your resilience and improve your ability to cope with stress.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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