Students, Stress, Teenages | July 7, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Studying for a degree is certainly a busy and stressful time for many—especially while trying to juggle work and other commitments. If your feeling overwhelmed by it all, don’t let life get you down. Living a more stress-free life is possible and here are some really easy ways to help beat it.
The best way to deal with stress is to look after yourself by eating a varied, nutritious diet. Studies have found that many university students are not receiving the correct amounts of nutrients important for a healthy immune system and stress support, among many other things.
Make sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet with wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and proteins such as fish and dairy.
Avoid convenience foods which provide very little nutrients, especially for your brain. Think foods rich in omega-3 such as walnuts and fish and iodine found in seafood. Zinc is found in meat and pepitas and B vitamins are found in wholegrains, vegetables and eggs. This will ensure your brain is receiving vitamins and minerals important for memory, concentration and a healthy mood.
To help address any nutritional deficiencies, a good quality multivitamin can be taken daily. They usually contain B vitamins for healthy nervous system function and to support energy production. Multivitamins contain a wide-range of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins essential for good health. If stress levels are a major concern, then there are specific formulas that can assist in this and may include magnesium and anti-anxiety herbs.
A 2014 study conducted on university students found that those who snacked at night were more susceptible to an increase in daytime sleepiness and anxiety and had a decrease in sleep quality. Interestingly, while all students were found to be at risk for a wide-range of nutritional deficiencies, the group who snacked at night were at higher risk for protein and vitamin A, B6 and C deficiencies. The snacking group had an increase in cortisol levels (elevated levels are associated with an increase in stress) and a decrease in antioxidant activity. So, next time you’re considering doing some late night studying and snacking, think again! It might leave you feeling lethargic and stressed the next day.
Although nutrients in coffee have been linked to increased mental alertness and improved cognition, having excess amounts can have detrimental effects on your nervous system by increasing anxiety and worsening sleep.
To reduce stress, consider switching caffeinated beverages to caffeine-reduced green tea. In university students, green tea consumption was found to decrease salivary α-amylase activity (increased levels are a marker of stress) while also reducing the student’s subjective measurement of stress. It is believed that theanine, an amino acid found in tea, is responsible for its anti-stress properties.
Other herbal teas that promote relaxation include chamomile, lemon balm and passionflower.
A common concern among university students is lack of sleep. Staying up late to study for exams and finish last-minute assignments can leave students feeling depleted and fatigued the next day. Stress and anxiety can also affect sleep, meaning it can take you longer to fall asleep and lead to more frequent night-waking. Avoid spending too much time on social media and on the computer, as too much screen time has been linked to poor sleep habits. If you’re having trouble sleeping consider taking an herbal or homeopathic formula which are non-addictive and don’t leave you feeling groggy the next day.
Exercise is a fantastic way to relieve stress and anxiety. It helps to boost mood by increasing our feel-good hormones such as serotonin.
One study found that Biodanza sessions in university students significantly improved stress levels and depression. The researchers concluded that artistic, collaborative and psychophysical interventions through weekly dance sessions provided an effective stress management strategy for university students. And if dancing isn’t your thing, that’s ok…. many other activities fit into this category including team sports, cycling, swimming and anything else that makes you sweat!
Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, ideally in the morning to sharpen focus during class or in the afternoon to help relieve stress accumulated throughout the day.
Practicing stress management techniques can be helpful tools to reduce and prevent anxiety. Sitting quietly for 10 minutes and practicing meditation, deep breathing and visualisation can promote instant calm and wellbeing. Practice these techniques every day to prevent stress or in an acute situation they can be utilized to assist bringing stress down a notch.
Practicing mindfulness and gratitude can help maintain a positive outlook and reduce stress. Write down each day what you are grateful for and focus on the present moment—not about what has happened in the past or that might be coming up in the future. Other suggestions to help unwind include listening to your favourite music, laughing out loud and spending time doing other activities that you enjoy.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed it’s important to set a schedule to manage your time better. Avoid late night cram sessions before an exam by doing smaller chunks of work each day. The more you feel on top of things, the less you’re going to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Factoring in time for relaxation and holidays is also important to allow your mind to switch off and have a break.
Budkevich RO, et al. Effects of night-time snacking in students on their physiological parameters. Vopr Pitan. 2014;83(3):17-24
Unno K, et al. Anti-stress effect of green tea with lowered caffeine on humans: a pilot study. Biol Pharm Bull. 2017;40(6):902-909
Schlarb AA, et al. Sleep and somatic complaints in university students. J Pain Res. 2017 May 18;10:1189-1199
López-Rodríguez MM, et al. Effects of Biodanza on stress, depression, and sleep quality in university students. J Complement Med. 2017 Jun 7
Regehr C, et al. Interventions to reduce stress in university students: a review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2013 May 15;148(1):1-11