Stress is a normal part of life. Like the subjects you’ll study, the stress you experience—about exams, presentations, papers, friends, and relationships, to name just a few—is training you for greater challenges in life and your career. Good news! There are lots of great ways to manage your stress response. Think of these strategies as life hacks for building resilience and learning how to adapt to life’s daily challenges.
In the moment
Figure out what the problem really is
Think through the situation that’s causing you stress. What’s bugging you the most? What is the real problem?
Consider the solutions
Even a difficult solution is still a solution. Solving the problem, even when it’s difficult or when it takes a lot of time is always the best coping strategy. Ask people for help. After all, that’s how people have solved problems for centuries!
Acknowledge what you can’t change
If there isn’t a solution and you can’t change the situation, you may need to acknowledge that and move on. Consider that door closed and get started looking for another one that you may be able to open.
Try to put things in perspective. Not every stressor is the end of the world. If this situation was happening to a friend, would you see the situation differently? What advice would you give them?
Acknowledge your feelings
It’s OK to feel angry or upset once in a while. You don’t have to bottle up your feelings. Admitting that something is really bugging you can often make you feel a lot better. Then, move from feeling to thinking. Move from experiencing the problem to solving it.
Build healthy relationships
Anytime you’re experiencing stress, talking to friends and family can make a big difference. Developing healthy relationships with people you can count on is an important part of preparing to deal with stress.
Reflect on your relationship with substances
Using substances might make you feel less stress in the short term, but they may not be long-term solutions. If substances are your main response for stress, reflect on why. Talk with the Student Recovery Community, or a mental health or medical professional about what less or safer use might look like.
Eat a healthy diet
A well-balanced diet makes you mentally and physically stronger. It gives your body the fuel you need to succeed. For resources, guidance and support, visit UBC Nutrition.
One of the best ways to relax and de-stress is to get active. Exercise is good for the brain and body. Research shows that for the biggest impact, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day is key. But even just walking to class, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a walk with a friend instead of going for coffee or drinks can make a big difference.
Remember: Exercise isn’t about losing or maintaining weight. It’s about keeping the body, heart, lungs, and brain strong—for today and tomorrow!
A good night’s sleep is necessary for optimal mental and physical health. How much sleep is ideal for most people? 7 to 9 hours! But you’ll know how much is right for you. Keep in mind that all-night/binge study sessions aren’t a very effective study method. You’re better off getting a good night’s sleep and reviewing key points in the morning.
Manage your time
Learn how to schedule assignments and other daily responsibilities. It will help you be more productive and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. When you know that you have time to do everything you need to do, it makes your day easier to manage.
Here are some tips:
- Avoid screens (phone, tablet, TV, laptop) for at least an hour before bed
- Go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day
- Create a consistent routine to prepare yourself for sleep
Content adapted from Transitions, a resource guide for university students, and the first evidence-based publication of its kind, developed by Dr. Stan Kutcher.