Coping with Anxiety

By the SMU Social Media Team

It starts with a feeling of dread. Sometimes, a pounding headache ensues. Other times, you break out in cold sweat and nothing can quell the nausea that follows.

Life in university is never a walk in the park, with the laundry list of projects, readings and tests that just keeps getting longer. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little anxious once in a while.

However, if you’re constantly getting heart palpitations, panic attacks and having sleepless nights, perhaps it’s time to take a step back to listen to your body.

With looming deadlines (and exams!) around the corner, we round up the top tips to help tackle the stress and calm those frazzled nerves.


Set realistic goals and have a game plan

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, you can’t expect to complete your assignments and cram for the finals in a single seating.

Instead of getting all strung up over how you’re going to meet the deadlines or pass the exams, take some time to start a checklist of what you need to do. Set realistic goals to complete each task and ensure that you build in ample time for rest as well as for any last minute hiccups. You can sleep easy knowing that you’re slowly but surely working your way to completing your scheduled tasks.


Take deep breaths

Don’t relegate deep breathing to yoga classes or meditation retreats. According to a Stanford University study, breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain. Breathing deeply or taking controlled breaths with long exhalations can alter the state of the mind, and help to combat stress and anxiety. While you’re taking a break to rest your eyes, don’t forget to beat the stress with a couple of deep inhalations.


Take time out

When it’s crunch time, finding time to relax is probably the last thing on your mind. However, don’t underestimate the importance of taking some time to just relax and unwind. Whether you prefer to catch up with friends over a cuppa, take a long hike alone or binge watch Netflix dramas, some time away from the books can help you to clear your head and prevent a burnout.


Get enough sleep

While you think you can function with a few hours of sleep, constantly getting insufficient shuteye has a profound impact on your hormones and brain. Studies have shown that individuals who get four hours or less of sleep a night have higher levels of cortisol—the hormone associated with stress. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can impair memory and learning abilities. So think twice before you decide to skimp on sleep to catch up on your readings!


Talk it out

If nothing seems to help and you can’t shake off the feeling of being overwhelmed by anything and everything, approach a trusted family member or friend to talk about how you’re feeling, or consider seeking the help of a counsellor (a list is available via the National Council of Social Service).

For SMU students, you can receive the support and care you need in a safe and confidential setting at our student wellness centre and make an appointment with one of our counsellors. Alternatively, if you feel more comfortable chatting with a fellow undergraduate, you can also approach the SMU Peer Helpers for a chat.