Dealing with Anxiety, Stress and Depression

Sad figure with hands crying

Being a student at Uni is exciting! However, tons of reading, exams, essay deadlines and possibly adjusting to life in a different culture can be extremely stressful for some students. Stress is a normal part of life, but if stress becomes overwhelming, it is important to realize that help is available from your university as well as other sources. Be sure to contact your university counseling service as soon as you arrive at Uni if you think that you might experience a problem. They will be able to assist you. Additionally, psychotherapists, experts in helping people develop skills to cope with anxiety and depression, can be helpful. It is likely that your university counseling service will be able to provide guidance for finding a psychotherapist if needed.

If you find that you don’t need the assistance of the counseling office or a psychotherapist, but want to learn how to manage stress on your own, then mindfulness training and relaxation training can be beneficial options. One of the goals of both psychotherapy and mindfulness training is to help you become less distracted and less affected by negative thoughts associated with anxiety or depression that arise in the mind. Some of these thoughts may sound familiar: “I can’t take this,” “I’m a failure,” “It’s a catastrophe.” Although these thoughts may not disappear, mindfulness training can help one to focus on the present and not allow the negative thoughts to take over and fuel anxiety, stress and depression. For more information on mindfulness, visit the NHS website and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

Relaxation training involves muscle relaxation and deep breathing. It may also include visualization – the forming mental images, usually of a calming place. Learn more about relaxation techniques from the NHS website.

In addition to the resources above, there are four very important things that everyone needs to nurture positive mental and physical wellbeing. They are exercise, healthy diet, adequate sleep, and establishing supportive relationships. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s internal opiods, which trigger a more positive mood and also diminish pain. Endorphins are the body’s natural stress reliever.

Additionally a healthy diet can contribute to a positive mood. For example, those who are dieting are often tempted to excessively reduce their intake of carbohydrates. However, carbohydrates provide the body with needed energy. Fatigue can result if not enough carbs are ingested. Additionally, legumes, fish, nuts, dark colored fruits and green leafy vegetables are rich in nutrients and provide health benefits. Before embarking on any diet or exercise program, be sure to discuss the particulars along with your health history and any concerns with your GP.

Getting adequate sleep is more important than you may think. The student experience often includes late nights.  However, it is important to exercise caution, as sleep contributes to overall mental and physical wellbeing. Lack of sleep can stimulate feelings of depression and stress so do try to organize your time so that you get adequate amounts of sleep. Another benefit of exercise is that it promotes a more restful sleep but do not exercise too close to bedtime as it may be difficult to wind down. To learn more about the importance of sleep, visit the NHS website.

Another important factor in dealing with depression, stress and anxiety is to surround yourself with supportive people with whom you can share your feelings. A good talk and a laugh with a friend can go a long way towards relieving stress.

Looking for more resources on anxiety, stress and depression? Visit the MoodGym for a variety of resources and interactive activities. Also see the Mental Health Foundation and the NHS Mental Health Helplines. If you are a student at the University of Oxford, visit their Supportive Resources page.

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