Stress and studying

By betony

It doesn’t matter if you’re drowning in 3ft of water or drowning in 10ft of water, you’re still drowning.

Stress and studying, unfortunately, for most students seem to be two words that go hand in hand.  But we all have very different experiences and ways to try and cope with stress.

On top of the usual stress of studying, in the last couple of years, Covid-19 has brought extra tension. Of course, sometimes a little bit of stress is a given and can be the extra little push we need to actually make a deadline. But sometimes it can all get too much even without us realising. I met with Melina Audette, a master’s Plant Sciences student from Canada to learn about her experience and the route she took to receive help.

Melina’s story

I asked Melina what aspects of life here make her feel stressed. Her answers were something I’m sure we can all relate to; what to do after graduation? The fear of not making friends and being lonely, school work, uncertainties around Covid-19 and the impact of this on the student life.

Melina moved to Wageningen from Canada in September 2020. At the time, the ‘second wave’ had not yet hit and things looked hopeful. The Annual Introduction Days were in person as were lectures. Shortly after her arrival, rising infections caused new restrictions. Suddenly she found herself 6000 km from home (having never lived away from her parents) alone in a new country.

With no one to discuss the uncertainties around course options, visas or residence permits, she quickly found herself stuck in her room overthinking things.

We discussed if there was a sudden change or tipping point that made her realise that the stress she was feeling was past manageable levels. She explained that there wasn’t necessarily a tipping point but that the peak stress she felt was a year into her studies.

At the point of nearing the end of her thesis, Christmas was looming and she was already feeling the dread of spending another lonely holiday away from her family. There was no defined event but she realised that she was experiencing more stress than she could cope with when things started to fail that normally wouldn’t. Otherwise, she might not have noticed. Especially as lots of people around her were feeling very similar things or worse so it didn’t especially feel like she had a ‘problem’. Luckily a friend of hers had had a similar experience and got help through the WUR student psychologists and pushed Melina to do the same.

Taking the step of talking to a mental health professional

This was the first time in her life Melina had sought help from a psychiatrist so she was understandably feeling a mix of emotions about her situation. The negative feelings revolved around the societal stigma, and the fact that she needed to go. But she also felt proud that she had taken the step to get help.

During her talks with the psychologist, she was reminded of the quote “whether you’re drowning in 3ft of water or 10ft of water, you’re still drowning”. Meaning for her that just because she felt like some of her friends had it worse than her, it didn’t mean that she didn’t also need help.

She explained how much of an emotional experience it was for her and such a relief to receive help. But also empowering in that she felt heard and validated and had learnt new tools to avoid such a build-up of stress in the future.

If you find you enjoy something do more of it.

I asked how she copes with the stresses of life now. She explained that the biggest thing she learned is to validate herself, regardless of how parents or friends react, her experiences are still hers and that is what matters.  Additionally, she learnt the value of grounding herself and prioritizing activities that make her feel good. More specifically, she has learned the importance of a routine in her life, to allow time for important parts of life outside of studying.

Ways to deal with stress yourself

I’m so grateful to Melina for sharing her story with us. I’m sure many students can relate to her story. In my friendship circles, causes of stress and dealing with day to day studying stress are not rare topics of conversation. One friend of mine strongly advocates for mindfulness and meditation, another finds solace in talking to others who are going through similar experiences. One tip I will remember for the future is when you have a large study task to complete, plan something fun afterwards to look forward to.

It’s good to see that the university has attention for mental health. Students have different options when they get stuck during their studies. Linda wrote about this in her blog about ‘Mental health and ways to reach out‘.

By betony

There is one comment.

  1. By: Caroline Berkhof · 11-03-2022 at 09:13

    Go to http://www.wur.sts/studentguidance if you could use some support yourself.

    Did you know the student psychologists have an online walk-in between 13:00 & 14:00h on weekdays?

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