Stress

This page offers help and advice on how to approach stressful periods in your student life. We recommend that you read the sections in order, but you are of course also welcome to choose the specific section that is most relevant for you.

How will I ever manage to get everything done?

At the Student Counsellors' Office, we often meet students who contact us because they feel under pressure or stressed in their student life. This can be because of exams, but, often, it is because they are combining many commitments, such as a student job, social activities and family obligations.

In the section below, you will find some of the questions will would often ask if you visited us at the Student Counsellors’ Office. Reflect on the questions and note your answers on a piece of paper. If you make an appointment with your student counsellor, it is a good idea to bring your answers with you to your counselling session.

If you suspect that you are suffering from stress and have an urgent need for help, we recommend that you contact one or more of the following:

Busy, under pressure or stressed?

What many people don’t know is that stress is actually vital for our survival. Positive stress is what enables us to perform as well as we can. This is because stress is an important biological mechanism that can help us when we’re under pressure – for instance in exams and other aspects of life as a student. Negative stress arises when the pressure to which you’re exposed over time exceeds the resources which are available to you (physical, mental and social).

If you experience too many symptoms of negative stress over a long period of time, or if you notice any sudden warning signs, you need to stop and take stock of what’s going on and why you feel the way you do.

If you contact the Student Counsellors' Office because you feel stressed, we will focus on the following questions in order to shed light on your current situation:

  • How often do you feel stressed?
  • When do you feel stressed? At what times and during which periods do you feel stressed?
  • In which situations do you feel stressed?
  • How does stress show itself? What are the first signs that you are getting stressed? What symptoms do you have?
  • How is your general mood and your ability to concentrate?
  • How are your eating habits, drinking habits and diet?
  • How are your exercise habits? How is your physical wellbeing?
  • How are your sleep patterns? What time do you get up? What time do you go to bed? How many hours do you sleep?
  • When and how do you take your breaks?
  • What is the reason you feel stressed?

Once you have answered these questions, you are already well on the way to shedding light on your relationship with stress. In this way, you can learn to spot the signs of time or work pressure and perhaps negative stress and its causes. There’s often a pattern which can help to reveal how stress can be alleviated.

Can you see a pattern?

If you can, you can now continue to unfold and explore this pattern in the next section. If you cannot, it could be a good idea to discuss your situation with a student counsellor, a fellow student or your parents. It can often be helpful to discuss your answers to the above questions with somebody else.

Explore your patterns

Stress symptoms may appear in different ways, such as insomnia, depression, irritation, concentration problems, and a lack of energy or overview. If you know your stress symptoms and stress patterns, you can use these to recognise your warning signals when you experience stress.

Once you have uncovered your pattern, you can start investigating how you can remedy any overload and/or early stress symptoms.

  • Which pattern can you see? What is the relationship between the pattern and your experience of stress?
  • What in the pattern constitutes a problem?
  • Who is it a problem for?
  • What would you like to change? (and is there anything you don't want to change?)
  • What will happen if you do not change your pattern?
  • What is difficult to change? What makes it difficult?
  • What prevents you from changing your pattern? What do you demand of yourself?
  • What makes it important for you to change your pattern?
  • Imagine that a friend were in your situation. What would you suggest he/she should do?
  • What will happen if you change your pattern?
  • How will you benefit?

Now look through your answers and consider which courses of action are available. What can you do?

What can I do?

Once you have explored your pattern, you can start working on your courses of action. If you have been in a similar situation before, a good starting point may be to ask yourself: “What did I do then and what worked?” If you have decided that you would like to change your pattern in order to reduce your workload and alleviate your early stress symptoms, you can start to consider how you will do this:

The challenge for many students is that they aren’t aware of their own stress symptoms. They might underestimate their significance or find some reason to ignore the warning signs. This is because the symptoms of stress vary from one person to the next. If you’re in a negative stress spiral, which may lead to exhaustion and burn-out, you may not be able to exit this spiral yourself.

If you suspect that you are suffering from stress and have an urgent need for help, we recommend that you contact one or more of the following:

General advice

Meditation and mindfulness can help to reduce stress. The aim of them both is to help boost your awareness of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations – and to deal with them in a new way.

We encourage you to explore the following free services and apps and find out what works for you:

Learn more about stress

There are plenty of resources available to you, so all you have to do is decide what would help you most in preventing and/or dealing with your stress symptoms.

You can also find advice on how to handle stress on the Student Counselling Service’s website. Read the Student Counselling Service’s leaflet on stress, which provides an overview of the symptoms of physical, psychological and behavioural stress. It also offers inspiration on how to break a negative stress pattern in order to improve your mood, head and health.

"The symptoms of stress vary from one person to the next. But if you have any of these symptoms, it’s important that you stop and think carefully about your situation. Stress is a reaction to pressure which you find hard to handle, so it’s important that you take it seriously and do something about it." Lena Pradhan Bakkestrøm, Guidance counsellor, Arts