While college is generally filled with fun, new experiences and amazing opportunities, it can also bring a lot of stress to students’ lives, especially regarding exams and assignments. It’s often hard to know what to do when you feel like this, as in a university as big as UCD it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lost. However, there are a number of ways to help yourself deal with stress and lots of different supports available for students in their times of need. Here are three ways to help reduce stress in your life and exactly how to do it.

1. Look for help

One of the good things about UCD being such a huge university is that there are so many different people who are can help you when you need it. Whether you’re feeling stressed about something relating to academics or something more personal, there is always someone you can talk to. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved so if you’re feeling stressed during the semester, try confiding in a friend or a family member, as they may be able to shed some light on the situation and help you find a solution you didn’t think of. If you’re looking for someone more professional, your first port of call should be talking to your Student Advisor, who is happy to help you with any personal or academic issues.

You can find all their contact information on the UCD website, and you can email, phone or make a face-to-face appointment. Even if they can’t guide you in terms of a particular assignment or study area, they can tell you exactly who to talk to and steer you in the right direction, and they can also help you plan out your next step regarding deeper personal issues. If, after talking to a friend or your student advisor, you feel that you need deeper help for the cause of your stress, UCD offers a free counselling service available in the Old Student Centre.

If the staff can’t give you an appointment immediately they offer free vouchers for counselling in an external office while you’re waiting for an appointment in UCD. Other people that might be able to help you are Academic Advisors, a lecturer/tutor you feel particularly comfortable with, the Writing and Maths Centres in the library and the Chaplaincy, who offer confidential guidance and support to those of any faith or those of no faith.

2. Practise mindfulness and self-care

One of the best ways to deal with stress is to make time for you and properly relax. When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, it can be very difficult to focus on what you need to do so instead of forcing yourself to get things done right away, take a bit of time out to take care of yourself. For some people, taking deep breaths can help (the 7/11 breathing technique can be very helpful in times of stress – you breathe in for 7 seconds and breathe out for 11 seconds, and repeat until you feel calm). For others, longer self-care is needed to calm down, such as taking a bath, listening to music, reading a book, having a cup of tea with a friend or watching an episode of your favourite T.V. programme.

Whatever it is that puts your mind at ease and helps you feel better, make sure to make time to do it and focus on that activity and that alone. Don’t let thoughts of your stress creep back into your mind – you deserve this moment of self-care, and then later, when you’re more relaxed, you’ll be more than capable of taking on whatever task/s had you stressed in the first place. Often people feel guilty for taking moments out of their day for themselves, especially when they have things to do, but the reality is that you’re never going to be able to get those things done anyway if you’re not feeling good or in the right mind frame, so you’ll end up more productive if you take half an hour or an hour to enjoy something you love and de-stress, and then come back to it when you’re ready.

3. Break things down

Whether you’re stressed about one thing in particular or a bunch of different things going on at once, the way to overcome that stress and actually get the job done is by organising yourself and breaking those things down into small, achievable steps that will eventually lead to you completing the end goal. If you look at the overall picture, it can be overwhelming and seem impossible but if you take a moment to sit down and break your task/s down into a series of steps, you’ll be able to overcome your anxiety and your fear and get it done. Try to begin with doing something really small first, something you can get done easily as that will give you a bit of confidence as you work your way through the rest of the steps.

For example, say you have an essay due on a topic you have to choose. Step 1 is choosing the title. Spend one day researching to find a topic you want to do and come up with a title. Then you can take a break, having completed the first step. The second step can be making a general plan for the essay, what the headings of your paragraphs will be. Step three is finding sources, step four is writing the introduction and first paragraph, step five is writing the next few paragraphs etc. until you reach the conclusion and you’re done.

Make sure to organise when you’re going to do each step as well – you could take a day per step, or one step in the morning and another one in the evening etc. – just do whatever works for you. This doesn’t only work for academic things either – anything can be broken down and made easier through a series of steps, and if you have a load of things to do, break each one down into these steps and only focus on one thing at a time. Trying to do everything at once is what gets people overwhelmed and makes them give up, so if you just take it step by step, you’ll be flying in no time.

In the age we live in, stress is more prevalent in young people’s lives than ever before, especially in an academic environment like college. But there are also a number of ways to combat these overwhelming feelings and to come out the other side having achieved everything you want. Through looking for help, practising self-care regularly and breaking everything down into smaller steps, you can overcome the anxieties you feel and get things done. Make sure to remember that you’re not alone, that everyone feels some sort of stress during college, but that you can and will get through whatever it is that’s bothering you and that there are so many supports/methods of dealing with stress that you can avail of to help you through it all.