Five Ways to Escape Uni and Beat Study Stress
Studying at university has a particular rhythm to it, a rhythm that tends to be, well... stressful. Juggling due dates, exams, and life outside of university can be overwhelming. We’ve written before, as many have, about how to manage your study to deal with stress, but sometimes the best strategy is to get away from university completely. It’s important to take time off to relax and fulfil other aspects of your life.
Destress activities for students can be more than just going out for drinks, and they can be a lot healthier and more productive. There are plenty of ways to get into the life of your student city in order to make friends, improve your mood and destress your brain.
Take the day off
If you’re feeling overworked, burned out or at the end of your tether, ditching uni for the day could be just what the doctor ordered. There are a lot of benefits to taking a mental health day. You’ll work more effectively when you come back, which could in fact lead you to better results in your coursework than if you tried to push through the pain.
So, what’s there to do on your mental health day? The aim is to relax, so sleeping in and having a slow morning is a good idea. Another tip is to temporarily disconnect yourself from your schedule and responsibilities - put your phone on flight mode and focus instead on what’s in front of you.
Other mental health day activities can be whatever you want them to be - go mountain biking, visit the art gallery, go out for coffee or lie down on your bed and put your music on loud. The point is to indulge yourself. Of course, there are times when ditching uni isn’t appropriate - if your workload is too much, taking a day off from it could result in greater stress the next day. Think about taking a day off after you’ve just had significant hand-ins - times in your schedule when you’re beginning a raft of new assignments and you have time on your hands.
Spending time in the great outdoors is a scientifically proven way to destress your brain and comes with physical health benefits too. Luckily, in New Zealand cities, our natural wonders are close at hand. Half an hour from all major centres are parks, forests, beaches, lakes and waterfalls - this is your daily reminder that we live in paradise.
The benefits of getting outdoors are multiple. Researchers have found that it can relieve stress and anxiety, reduce inflammation, improve your memory and even decrease your cancer risk when you do it regularly throughout your life. So don’t just take your destress tips from us - trust the experts.
Taking advantage of your university cities’ unique closeness to nature can reduce your stress and also improve your mental faculties, which in turn can help you when you return to town to study. I’d call that a win-win.
Pursue your hobbies
When you’re a teenager, you’ve got a lot of spare time to pursue all kinds of hobbies, but these can often go by the wayside when you go to university due to the busy schedule of studying, working and socialising that tends to push everything else out.
Actively pursuing your hobbies is a great way to give perspective to your life. It’s important to keep a variety of activities and pursuits so that you don’t get bored or burnt out. Most people have hobbies for a simple reason - they give you pleasure. But, there are other reasons too.
Hobbies are a great way to socialise and increase your networks, which in turn gives you more support. Who doesn’t like having friends? Finally, hobbies which are task-based give a sense of gratification when you complete some kind of goal or objective. We’re hard wired to feel fulfilled and happy when we complete tasks, so giving yourself this kind of structure through hobbies can have long-lasting benefits.
We tend to keep on top of our mental state of mind better when we have various activities we dedicate ourselves to throughout the week. Studying gets overwhelming if it’s all you do - just like if you were a professional footballer, playing and practising all the time could become stressful unless you got an hour here or there to play guitar.
There are loads of ways to get your heart rate up, so take your pick. Regular exercise does wonders for the body and the mind. Evidence shows that keeping fit reduces your cortisol in the long run - that’s the hormone your body releases during stress responses. Meanwhile, it releases endorphins, which improve your mood and relieve pain.
Exercise also helps keep your sleep regular and can increase your confidence and self image - factors which affect your stress levels. Of course, most people know that exercise is good for you, but it isn’t always easy to maintain a routine.
The trick is to keep finding new ways of exercising until you find one that sticks - not everyone enjoys going to the gym or jogging. For some, structured exercise like team sports or yoga classes will keep you in the routine, while for others, it’s less stressful to have a routine that you can do at your choosing.
Get together with all your friends
Nothing gets rid of stress like seeing your friends and having a good time together. A lot of activities you can do alone help too, but sometimes, being in your own head isn’t the way to get past it if you’re feeling worked up. Your friends provide other perspectives to your problems and act as a buffer to the difficult periods of adjustment that result from negative experiences.
Think about it this way - in a sports team, you need a variety of different players for different situations. Some people are faster, others are stronger, some are more talented on offense and some on defence. Negative experiences which cause stress are wide and varied. Someone is bound to deal better with certain negative experiences over others, and when you are struggling to cope with something you just might find a friend who can offer advice on it.
Some groups of friends prefer a good old fashioned party, while some might prefer a board games night or a surf trip. We can neglect socialising as we get caught in the trap of study and working, and find we don’t have much free time on our hands. But, there is always more time than you think and it’s crucial to spend that time making connections - your friends are your best asset and you are all there to help each other.
Stay safe, stay sane
Life is no fun when you’re stressed out, and you’ll also ruin your productivity if you don’t find a way to deal with it - you’re not doing yourself a favour if you’re always trying to push through it. There’s only so much that study breaks and time management can do to destress, so sometimes you’ve really got to take the chances you have to get away from university altogether.
A well-balanced life has a multitude of activities in it, not just study or work. Although there is a lot of pressure involved with being a student, it never pays to burn yourself out by working all the time. Give yourself space by escaping from university every once in a while, and you’ll find your stress might just start to melt away.
By Jack Buckley, Wellington.