Your college years will be filled with so many enriching experiences. You will make friends for life, join a mix of clubs and societies, attend educational and social events, and it will all lead up to the day you graduate with your classmates.
But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies because you will likely also experience frustration and anxiety somewhere along the way. This could be during exam season, maybe you will have financial worries, feel unconnected or homesick or you could have difficulty navigating the complexity of your personal relationships. Stress can make you irritable, worried, anxious and may lead to sleep problems, concentration issues and shortness of breath.
If this is resonating with you, it’s time to take some steps to work towards a healthier lifestyle to reduce your stress levels. Here are 7 practices we recommend students take to reduce stress:
1. Join SilverCloud
As an NCI student, you have access to a digital mental health platform called SilverCloud for free. When you join the platform, you can start the ‘Space from Stress’ programme which consists of modules that follow best practice guidelines to reduce stress using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy principles.
- Time management
- Battling procrastination
- Importance of self-care
- Sleep hygiene strategies
- Improving communication in relationships
Continue on your mental health journey by taking on some of the other programmes on specialist areas such as depression, body image, resilience, sleep, money and anxiety.
2. Improve Your Sleep
This isn’t something you haven’t heard before! You know how refreshing it can feel to have a great night’s sleep but it’s so easy to keep scrolling on your phone, watching videos on TikTok, or maybe you’re worrying about something that's been going on in your life recently.
There are so many health benefits associated with sleeping well, not just reducing your stress levels. You’ll notice that your mood has improved, that your memory and recall is better and that you’re not getting sick as often because your immune system has been given a boost. SilverCloud offers a programme that can help you get to the bottom of your sleeping difficulties and teach you proven techniques for developing and maintaining a healthy sleep cycle. What can be better than getting good quality sleep night after night?
3. Exercise Regularly
Exercising is not just about controlling your weight. It can help protect you from chronic diseases, sleep better and reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. All of these benefits contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle.
You should already be aware that NCI students have access to SV Fitness Health Club which offers a range of state-of-the-art fitness facilities. You can also join a range of clubs and societies such as Badminton, Hockey, Football, Running, Dance and Basketball that will help you keep active while at NCI.
4. Listen to Music
Have you recognised that listening to music can be therapeutic? Music has been proven to have many cognitive benefits including being a stress reliever. Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves. Faster beats bring sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promotes a calm, meditative state.
A simple search for study music on Spotify will provide you with numerous playlists for intense study, deep focus, concentration, and motivation. Here's an Instrumental Study playlist which provides a 'soft musical backdrop for your studies'.
5. Get Organised
Here are some quick wins that will help you feel more organised:
- Declutter your study space
- Create a study plan
- Hide your phone to avoid distractions
- Make checklists and write to-do’s
- Wake up in time to avoid rushing
- Set achievable and realistic goals
- Aim to organise yourself the night before
Following these straightforward tips will ease some of the worries of being a third-level student.
6. Be Mindful
Mindfulness is a relaxation technique that can be used to improve mental health and lower stress levels. It is described as the ability to be fully present and is often practiced through deep breathing, yoga, and meditation.
The Student Counselling and Wellness Team at NCI offer a full schedule of Chillout Sessions to help students relax and unwind during busy study times. Students can join these free workshops to try yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation.
7. Schedule Some ‘Me’ Time
Your college years are a time of flux with so many changes happening around you. Throw a global pandemic into the middle of your studies and you’re bound to feel overwhelmed!
It’s easy to get lost in the mix of classes, project work, socialising and extra-curricular activities such as clubs and societies. Sometimes feelings of stress and anxiety can be caused by the busy nature of student life and, when you take a minute to evaluate, you realise that you need some time to regroup and build yourself up.
So, what are some ways you can have some ‘me’ time? This varies person-to-person but here are some ideas you can explore to see what would suit you best:
- Switch off by reading a book from a genre you enjoy whether that's fiction or non-fiction, popular or niche (something other than your textbooks, we mean!)
- Get to know a new part of Dublin! For example, do you know where in Dublin you can go for a lovely walk and spot a life-sized sculpture of a rhino? Clue: It's alongside a river
- Take a couple of hours off and go to the cinema. Turn your phone off so you’re immersed in the story and not thinking about things that have been worrying you lately
- Create a ‘spa break’ at home by having a bath or a long shower complete with a face mask and other pampering products (yes, this one is for all genders!)
- Indulge in a hobby, whether that’s putting together a jigsaw, writing in your journal, a Lego building project, playing your favourite online game or simply some colouring
- Unplug. Turn off your devices, take time away from social media and do nothing but be by yourself for 20 minutes and reflect on how it makes your feel
NCI offers a Student Counselling and Wellness Service which ensures that students have access to a range of mental health support services such as the 50808 textline, SilverCloud and Student Counselling as well accessible workshops and additional resources. Please reach out if you need help.