Stressbusting strategies for students

Stress happens. Whether you’re a freshman straight out of JC/poly/NS or a seasoned senior, you can and will experience stressful periods over the course of your semester.

Maybe you’re a superhero at coping with the high-octane periods known as deadlines and finals – in which case, move right along, nothing to see here. But for most of us mere mortals, the feeling of being stressed can be really demoralising. Here are some stress-management strategies that will help, developed in consultation with the Mrs Wong Kwok Leong Student Wellness Centre at SMU.

1. Avoid unnecessary stress

This sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But sometimes, when your schedule and to-do list are packed fit to burst, you’ll look back and realise that you were the one who originally said ‘yes’ to too many commitments. (Also at bursting point: your poor tired brain.)

Before you hit maximum stress levels, sit down with your calendar app and start working out what’s non-negotiable and what you can comfortably drop. Perhaps you need a break from one of your three clubs and CCAs. Or you may have to scale back on your social life until assignment period is over. Your friends will understand – they’re almost definitely going through the same thing themselves!

2. Adapt to the cause of stress

By changing your expectations and revising your attitude, you can adapt to a stressful situation and regain your sense of control. It may help to focus on the big picture, or to reflect on the positives in your life.

Learning to adapt can also help you to ward off future stressors. For instance, when you’re up against multiple clashing deadlines, there may be nothing to do except pull the necessary all-nighters to get them done. But if you learn from the experience, you’ll get started earlier next time and avoid that situation altogether.

3. Alter the narrative…

Some stressful situations are unavoidable. But many can be altered to be less stressful.

If you’re working on a group project and encounter a conflict, take a step back and defuse the situation by trying to see the other points of view, and expressing yourself calmly without excessive emotion. Even a small change in your communication can make a difference to the dynamics that create stress.

4. …but also accept the things you cannot change

When the cause of your stress is entirely beyond your control, there’s not a lot you can do about it except to rant and rave about your messed up situation. Venting to a close friend or family member is a good way to get things off your chest, and so is writing about your frustrations in your personal journal. The trick is to get it all out, and then to let it go and re-focus your energies constructively. Otherwise, if you consistently rage at the unfairness of things, you’ll find yourself bogged down by negative energy.

5. Finally, make time to relax

Recharge your batteries and reduce your stress levels by taking care of yourself. No matter how strapped for time you may be, you’ll always benefit from taking time out to have some fun or simply chill out. It could be as simple as rounding up a couple of friends to get a bubble tea at one of the nearby malls, or working off steam with some reps at the SMU Gym. If you have just ten minutes, put down your notes, plug in your earphones and pull up a happy playlist on Spotify.

Undergraduate applications are open! Visit admissions.smu.edu.sg to learn how you can Transform into a Different U.

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