6 ways to help tertiary students deal with stress

September 2017


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Up to your eyeballs in assignments, part-time jobs and money stress? You’re not the only one. Education Review explores some of the ways in which tertiary education organisations are helping their students to manage stress.

 6 ways to help tertiary students deal with stress

Tertiary students worldwide are carrying more stress than ever. Increased fees and costs of living, more competition in the workforce post-study, combined with the day-to-day stresses of exams and assignments mean that many students are living with too much stress and anxiety. Luckily the sector has developed all sorts of help, from mindfulness apps to yoga classes. Here are six ways to manage your stress and ease your anxiety.

1. Sensory modulation
Otago Polytechnic is considering installing a permanent sensory room on their campus after a sensory room created by students to reduce anxiety was a calming hit with punters. It was devised by two occupational therapy students, Janine Hunter and Nathalie Heinz, to mitigate the effects of anxiety – a condition that research shows is one of the more common medical diagnoses made in tertiary students.

“Anxiety can be managed through sensory modulation strategies,” explains Janine.

“Sensory modulation is about making sense of the world by processing and responding to environmental stimuli using all seven senses – touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste, balance and spacial awareness.”

The room was outfitted with objects that provide a range of sensory experiences.

“There was a weighted toy dog, a weighted blanket, and a vest-like weight for over your shoulders to calm you when you’re having an attack. The weight grounds them and then helps people modulate their emotions. We also had a vibrating massaging mattress, kinetic sand and a piece of material to swaddle themselves in.”

2. Puppy love

Harvard University’s Countway Library has employed a therapist named Cooper who is a huge success in the stress relief stakes. He loves to play and run around or to snuggle close when you’re stressed. That’s right, Cooper is a therapy dog who works at the library to help those who need stress relief. Library visitors can check Cooper out for up to 30 minutes at a time, the same way that they’d check out a book.

3. Mindfulness

Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind (CALM) is on the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences’ website and gives simple advice about mental health and exercises to do online to help with stress. CALM also includes free mindfulness and compassion meditation training classes and downloadable guided meditations.

4. Embrace failure

Isn’t failure the last thing to focus on at university? The Perfection Project at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, is a student-led initiative that aims to promote the awareness of failure and setbacks as a healthy part of every student’s college experience and their lives post-study. The project encourages students to meet in person or to share their stories of “good failures” and their journeys of self-acceptance online .

5. Yoga

Yoga as the great panacea for university students’ stress? Perhaps, yes. Today there is a type of yoga to fit everyone. Here in New Zealand, float yoga, where poses are held while suspended or swinging in small hammocks, trapeze-style, is taking off. Yoga rave has taken off in the UK and combines a yoga class with a DJ-ed trance session.

Yoga makes you happier, says the research. For example, a study from Boston University’s medical school found that levels of Gamma-aminobutyric (the amino acid GABA) are higher in those who perform yoga than in those who don’t. Higher levels of GABA in your system make you feel happier and more relaxed.

6. Apps

In lieu of an actual meditation course, you can have similar effects with the Calm app. You’ll get guided techniques for appreciating the now, building focus, working with your thoughts and appreciating the non-doing.

Ever forgotten an exam? Then try the My Study Life app. The app is essentially a digital diary, and it’s designed to help you keep on top of due dates and study schedules. It’s free, and can be used to track deadlines.

You simply enter in an assignment name and the date that it’s due, and the app will remind you as often as you like. Best of all, it can synch up across a whole bunch of devices. It is accessible offline, so it won’t chew up lots of data.

You know that terrible, tight sensation you get in your chest whenever you start to feel anxious? It’s caused by stress affecting your breathing, creating exactly the kind of pain that the ReachOut Breathe app is designed to help you with. The free app helps you to slow and maintain your breathing, while also measuring your heart rate. So it’s not only good for exam time; it’s also useful for dealing with stress in general.

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