How To Deal With Study Related Stress

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How To Deal With Study Related Stress

  • Stef Hackney
  • (Mental Health & Wellbeing Adviser,
  • Disability & Wellbeing Service - LSE)


  • What is stress?
  • What are the mechanisms involved in stress?
  • What are the causes of study related stress?
  • Identify strategies for managing anxiety/stress.
  • Sources of advice and help

What is Stress?

  • It is a reaction to pressure or other types of demands placed on us.
  • We can cope well with short-term exposure to pressure – in fact this can be positive and helpful – but exposure to prolonged stress can be damaging.
  • Stress is not a disease, but it can reduce our ability to study effectively and it can have a negative impact on our wellbeing.

What is Stress?

  • Stress is normal. It can be either helpful or unhelpful.
  • For example stress can be helpful when sitting an exam, running a race, being attacked.
  • It is a natural adaptive response. Our body reacts automatically to prepare us for action. Known as the fight or flight response, adrenalin is pumped into our bloodstreams which triggers energetic, quick, acute reactions.

What are the Mechanisms Involved in Stress?

  • The mechanisms responsible for stress are
  • The “fight or flight” system.
  • Our responses (the way we think about, interpret and respond to stressful situations).

The Fight & Flight Response

  • There are only a few situations in modern life when this system is useful (e.g. assault, accident etc).
  • It helps us to survive immediate danger, but it can also have negative consequences.
  • The Mechanisms Involved In Stress…

The Fight or Flight Response Continued….

  • It can cause increased heart rate
  • It can cause ruminating thoughts & can make it difficult to make decisions.
  • We can become more accident prone.
  • It can reduce our ability to study effectively or think clearly.
  • breathing rate
  • increases
  • intestinal
  • muscles relax
  • pupils
  • dilate
  • blood pressure
  • in arteries
  • increases
  • blood sugar
  • levels increase
  • heart rate
  • increases
  • blood flow to
  • skeletal muscles
  • increases

Anxiety is less helpful in situations where the fight or flight response is not required. For example a social gathering or in a lecture.

  • Anxiety is less helpful in situations where the fight or flight response is not required. For example a social gathering or in a lecture.

The Causes of Study Related Stress;

  • Common challenges in starting at LSE
    • Academic Challenges
    • Social Challenges

Academic Challenges

  • New level of study
  • Previous standards
  • Reading strategies
  • Presentations, essays and exams
  • Academic adviser relationship

Academic challenges

  • Overwhelmed with material
  • New style of learning
  • Independent critical voice
  • Anxiety can lead to procrastination
    • We may disguise avoidance by being busy
    • We may find things to do that are interesting, but don't contribute towards the main goal

Social Challenges

  • Meeting new people
  • Maintaining previous contacts/support systems
  • Balancing work/leisure
  • Culture Shock

Social Challenges

  • Loss of familiar
    • home, friends, family, routine
  • Coping with loss, after initial excitement subsides
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Cultural isolation
  • Relationships and Identity
  • Financial difficulties

Why should we be concerned?

  • Our Brain, Body & Behaviour
  • changes when we are under stress.
  • Stress can prevent us being
  • productive, happy & successful.
  • Stress can cause us to feel
  • unwell & unable to cope.
  • Stress can make us lose sleep
  • & can lead us to do things we
  • won’t otherwise do!

Understanding Stress

Psychological Causes of Study Related Stress

  • Study stress is also about your beliefs about and attitude towards studying.
  • The way you think & interpret the pressure of studying can cause you to:
  • 1. feel threatened by a situation (e.g. an essay deadline)
  • 2. doubt your capabilities in dealing with the
  • situation (e.g. keeping up with reading)
  • How you feel also depends on how you think about studying & your resources for dealing with your studies.
  • So is your attitude towards studying a helpful one?

Psychological Causes…

  • Worries about not being able to study to your best level.
  • Not being sure how to prepare for or write essays/coursework.
  • Feeling you don’t fit in with your class, or not being able
  • to connect with others.
  • Not managing your time well.
  • Striving for perfection.
  • Procrastinating.
  • Having all-or-nothing thinking.

  • All or nothing thinking
  • Discounting the positive
    • only seeing the negative side
  • Over-generalizing
    • ‘If it happened before it will happen again’
  • Believing a catastrophe will happen
  • Emotional Reasoning
    • ‘If I feel it then it must be true’
  • Psychological Causes of Study Related Stress

Psychological Causes…

  • Trying to please others
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Repeating anxiety, stress, fear of failure …
  • The family/ historic context for your success …

Other Causes of Study Stress

  • Not having effective reading
  • Strategies.
  • Wanting ONLY a distinction.
  • Not having a suitable study space.
  • “The library”.
  • Communication difficulties (e.g. with academics & other staff).
  • Not coping well with self directed study.
  • Not having a good work-life balance.
  • Not knowing how to seek appropriate support.

Time to recap!

  • I’ve discussed how stress is defined and identified the 2 main mechanisms involved in stress responses which are;
  • The fight or flight system &
  • Psychological causes of study related stress
  • I’ve also discussed the causes of study stress &
  • now I will discuss strategies for managing anxiety/stress.

Strategies for Managing Anxiety/Stress

  • Talk to someone - others feel the same
  • Call home but also get involved here
    • It’s not disloyal to enjoy yourself!
  • Be realistic about what to expect
    • Balance work and leisure
    • Time to adjust
    • You don't have to get everything
    • right straight away
  • Food, sleep, lifestyle

Practical approaches

  • Revise study skills
  • Time management skills
  • Set realistic and achievable goals
  • Short term targets, longer term strategies
  • Recognise your achievements
  • Talk to others, ask for help and support

Focusing on the task

  • Concentrate on the task, not the outcome
  • Break down huge activities into small manageable tasks
  • Remember past successes
  • Time for breaks
    • space to breathe and think
    • mind maps, scribble ideas
    • go for a walk, talk out loud

Stress Management Skills

  • Physical, behavioural, cognitive…
  • Regularly switch off
    • Schedule some kind of physical
    • activity
  • Good self care
    • Sleep, diet, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
  • Time out without guilt
  • Acknowledge anxiety, rather than denying it.
  • Ask: ‘are my negative thoughts realistic?’

Challenging negative thoughts

  • Imagine them under test in a Court of Law
  • Identify the negative thought (I can’t do this course, I’m going to fail…)
    • Ascertain the evidence For and Against
    • Am I making a ‘thinking error’
    • Propose a more reasonable alternative thought

In Summary…

  • Get on top of your time & manage it wisely.
  • Get organised
  • Create a good study
  • environment.
  • Know your learning style: are you visual or auditory learner.
  • Learn good study skills to help you improve your performance.
  • Practice meditation, relaxation, exercise etc., this all helps to reduce stress.
  • Be optimistic!

More useful strategies…

  • Eat a healthy diet (fruit, vegetables, grains, oily fish).
  • Avoid processed food (sugar, high fat and salt, junk food).
  • Limit caffeine & stimulant use (e.g. red bull, pro plus).
  • Try to avoid mind or mood altering illicit drugs.
  • Make use of complementary therapies like aromatherapy, acupuncture or massage.
  • Talk to someone in the Disability & Wellbeing Service or Student Counselling Service.

Sources of Advice & Help

Sources of advice and help

  • Academic Adviser Departmental Staff
  • Disability and Wellbeing Service Student Services Centre
  • TLC study skills advisors Learning World
  • Student Union and Advice Centre Medical Centre
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisors Deans
  • Financial Support Office Faith Centre
  • Language Centre
  • PhD Academy Student Union
  • Don't wait until problems have become unmanageable
  • It’s OK to ask for help earlier

Disability & Well Being Service;

  • (Neurodiversity - ADHD, Dyslexia, Mental Health & Well Being and Disability support).
  • ISSA’s (exam arrangements, reasonable adjustments).
  • 1:1 sessions with Dyslexia Advisor or Mental Health Advisor.
  • (
  • Tel: (0207) 955 7767 (again self-refer)

Other Support Available;

  • MIND (
  • Mental Health Charity - lots of info re stress management and mental health in general.
  • Rethink ( As above - (Time to Change Campaign)
  • Samaritans (
  • Providing 24 hour confidential emotional support. Free calls!
  • GP (General Practitioner)

LSE Student Counselling Service – KSW.507

  • Free and confidential
  • Mainly short term counselling
  • Book appointments in advance
  • See Website for
    • Stress management handouts
    • Self help resources
    • Relaxation MP3’s

Future Workshops

  • How to manage your time effectively:
  • Mon 19th Nov 15.00 17:00 Location: NAB.LG.08
  • Stress Management
  • Mon 16th Nov  11.00 – 1.00 pm or
  • Mon  23rd Nov  11.00 – 1.00 pm or
  • Mon  30th Nov   11.00 – 1.00 pm
  • Location: TBC

Future Workshops

  • Raise Your Self-Esteem:
  • Thurs. 19th Nov    11.00 am – 1 pm
  • Thurs 26th Nov     11.00 am – 1 pm
  • Thurs 3rd of Dec.  11.00 am – 1 pm
  • Location: TBC


  • Stress Management Group (3 weeks)
  • Self Esteem Group (3 weeks)
  • Therapy Group
  • Places on all groups need to be booked in advance.
  • Please see the website, Call Ext 3627, visit KSW.507 or email

Coming to the end

  • To be most effective in
  • your learning, develop good
  • techniques to manage
  • study stress.
  • A little bit of stress is
  • energising but too much stress can be paralyzing.
  • Monitor your stress levels, spot stress signs early & do something about it quickly.
  • Early identification = early intervention.
  • Work on managing your stress effectively & try to use it to your maximum benefit!


  • Learning the skills to manage stress will improve your performance both now and in the future
  • Imagine looking back in 5 or 10 years
  • Talk

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