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About this book

This friendly and concise guide will help students to understand what stress is, why they experience it and how they can manage it. Based on up-to-date research, the book teaches students how to identify their stress and anxiety triggers, and how to recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress. It equips students with coping strategies to help them manage the ups and downs of university life, and provides guidance on the sources of help and support available to students.

This is a must-have resource for any student who would like to manage their studies more effectively and deal with challenges in a more resourceful way.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Frontmatter

1. What this Pocket Guide can do

Abstract
This guide can help you to: learn about what stress is, and why we experience it understand what happens in the brain and body when you get stressed identify your stress and anxiety triggers learn new coping strategies to manage stress from two evidence-based approaches: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy plan your time to prevent stress from becoming overwhelming learn to look after yourself to manage the ups and downs of university life find out what other sources of help and support are on offer.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

2. What this Pocket Guide can’t do

Abstract
This guide can’t help: with specific psychological or mental health issues (e.g. depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, psychosis) that may require treatment from a trained professional if you are very distressed. If this is the case you should seek professional help if you are in crisis or need urgent support. If this is what you’re experiencing, you can go to your GP or the Accident & Emergency Department in your local hospital through your GP or University Counselling Service
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

Are you stressed?

Frontmatter

3. What is stress?

Abstract
Stress arises in a situation where a person is unsure if they can cope with the demands being placed on them. We can experience stress in many different situations from physically threatening experiences (e.g. a car crash), health problems, relationship break-ups or bereavements, to day-to-day experiences (e.g. managing a heavy workload or completing a project with a deadline)
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

4. How do you know you are stressed?

Abstract
Stress affects our brain and body. The following vicious cycle shows how stress can impact on thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviours: We experience the physical sensations of stress from head to toe it can show itself in diverse ways, including headaches, spots, constipation, and palpitations.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

5. What are the effects of chronic stress?

Abstract
Whilst short-term stress can be helpful and even healthy, chronic stress arises when stress is experienced over an extended period of time. This can happen when acute episodes of stress have been ignored or not properly managed. Chronic stress can have a variety of negative effects on our bodies, minds and, ultimately, our lives.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

6. Is stress always bad?

Abstract
No, not at all. The acute and chronic stress responses are fundamental to our functioning and survival. In fact, at university some stress can help us to focus, to be energised and to get things done (e.g. playing sports and meeting deadlines). This graph shows how performance is reduced when there is either too little or too much pressure (Yerkes and Dodson, 1908).
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

Stress Triggers at University

Frontmatter

7. What are the common triggers of stress at university?

Abstract
We can divide triggers into those that are external to us (i.e. that arise in the world around us), and those that are internal (i.e. that arise inside of us). Here are some examples: External and internal stress triggers at university (things that happen outside of us) (things that happen inside our head) Being away from home for the first time Worrying that you won’t cope without family and friends from home.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

8. How do our minds contribute to stress?

Abstract
THEORY BOX: The old and new parts of the brain Our old brain It might seem strange, but parts of the human brain are hundreds of millions of years old. These brain structures originally evolved with the reptiles, and are associated with basic, primitive motivations sometimes referred to as the fours: feeding, fighting, fleeing and having sex! Our old brain also contains structures that are key in motivating us (like they do in other mammals) to care for others and to be driven by status. These key motivations give rise to our basic emotions anger, anxiety, sadness,disgust, and joy.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

9. Training your mind to manage stress

Abstract
Now that we can see how our minds naturally get caught up in tricky loops that can drive stress, it is time to think about what we can do about it. There are two steps to take: Noticing loops in the mindStepping out of loops In order to deal with stressful old brain new brain loops, the first step is to become aware of them. Just like it’s helpful to notice that your ankle hurts after falling over and twisting it (so that you put ice on it and rest), you can apply the same approach to your mind.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

Stress and Emotion

Frontmatter

10. The Three System Model of Emotion

Abstract
The Three System Model explains how emotions have evolved to serve different functions in our lives (Gilbert, 2009). It is based on evolutionary theory, neuroscience, and neurophysiological findings.The three major emotion systems are referred to as Threat, Drive and Soothing The threat system, with emotions of anger, fear and disgust, evolved to help usidentify and respond to threats in the world. The drive system, linked to emotions of excitement and joy, motivates us to move towards resources and goals that might be helpful to us.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

11. Managing stress by balancing the systems

Abstract
Many of the ‘loops in the mind’, covered in Part 2, are actually threat-based loops. Mindfulness is one way to manage threat, and more strategies are introduced in Parts 4 and 5. For now, it’s helpful to notice when your threat system is activated and how building up the drive and soothing system may help.Sometimes our threat systems are overactive at university because they take our focus and energy away from engaging in things that bring us pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. With this in mind, have a think about the following questions.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

Live Well, Study Well

Frontmatter

12. Balance

Abstract
It can be challenging to strike a healthy balance between work, rest, and play. Think about all the things you need to balance at university: cooking, cleaning, getting enough sleep and rest, attending lectures, doing coursework and exams, budgeting, friendships, and having fun You may also have other things to manage, like paid work or caring for family members. Just reading these lists could be stressful in itself! Juggling the different aspects of university life isn’t easy, so learning how to find balance can help to manage stress.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

13. Looking after yourself

Abstract
Many people are good at helping others, and giving advice on how to be healthy. Unfortunately, were often not so good at advising ourselves! The idea of self-care, of self-compassion (being sensitive to our own distress, and finding ways to try and do something helpful with this) might sound a little odd, but there are many ways we can focus on this (see Irons and Beaumont, 2017, for more information). For example, there are lots of small changes that you can make to look after yourself and manage stress effectively, such as changes to sleep, exercise, eating and drinking.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

14. Fun and Rest

Abstract
In Part 3 we introduced the Three System Model of Emotion. It is time to look at how to develop the drive system (linked to excitement and pleasure) and the soothing system (linked to resting and slowing down). Although studying is important and it takes up a lot of time, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Doing what you enjoy helps to develop interests, meet new people, and may clarify what is important in your life. Crucially, fun is also a great antidote for stress.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

Study Smart

Frontmatter

15. Studying hard versus studying smart

Abstract
Studying for a university degree is a little like training for a marathon: both can be physically and mentally tiring, and involve working for several months towards an end result. As well as the training runs, runners need to do stretches, work out in the gym, eat healthy, energy-rich food, get enough sleep, and rest enough to allow their muscles to recover. How does the idea of looking after yourself apply to preparing for exams or a final dissertation? Is it wise to study non-stop for months on end?
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

16. Managing procrastination and distractions

Abstract
Procrastination is one of the most common reasons that prevent students from studying smart. It involves putting off doing a task that could be done sooner, and can involve: Prioritising less important tasks over more important ones Prioritising pleasurable activities over less pleasurable ones Making excuses as to why something else should take priority over work.There are many reasons why we procrastinate. One way to understand this is to imagine how you would feel if you couldn’t procrastinate on a task. Often people who procrastinate say: feel anxious and agitated, feel bored and feel like I wouldn’t know how to do the work’. As you can see, in these examples procrastination is a way of avoiding unpleasant feelings. Whilst this is understandable, over an extended period, procrastination can lead to increased stress levels, anxiety and increased illness symptoms as a deadline approaches (Tice and Baumeister, 1997).
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

17. Perfectionism

Abstract
Do you set consistently high standards that are tough to meet? When you meet a standard, do you set a higher goal for yourself? Do you criticise yourself when you don’t meet your standards? Do you expect more of yourself than you expect of others? If you nodded to some of these questions, you may have perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism is tricky to address, since it can drive people to work hard and succeed. A common worry is that by becoming less perfectionist, performance will slip, and results will suffer. So, it is vital to consider whether perfectionism is working for you or against you. The following examples of two final-year students, Rima and Jake, illustrate the difference between when high standards are motivating and when they are demoralising.
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons

18. Managing setbacks

Abstract
Achievement mindset versus learning mindset There are different ways to approach studying at university. Let’s look at this with a short quiz. Your approach to studying will have a major impact on your ability to cope with challenges at university. Students with a purely achievement-driven mindset simply want to achieve top marks. Whilst this is understandable, it tends to lead to stress because their self-esteem is contingent upon being successful and getting top grades. And what happens if you don’t get the top grade?
Kate Joseph, Chris Irons
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