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Academic stress

Every student faces stress sometimes. You may not always be able to avoid it, but you can make choices that can help you stay resilient and positive. In fact, stress management is an important academic and life skill that you can learn.

How can SASS help?Stressors and reactionsAdopt a helpful mindsetPrioritize and planMake a changeResources at Queen's

How can SASS help?

When it comes to managing academic stress, it can be helpful to take a bit of time to look at the big picture and impose some structure on your life. Structure can help you ensure you complete your academic tasks and other commitments, and support your well-being.

At SASS, we can help you manage academic stress by offering information and support on such topics as:

  • time management and organization
  • reading efficiency
  • procrastination
  • understanding academic expectations

and more. If you would like one-on-one help, book an appointment with a learning strategist. There is no need for you to manage challenges without support.

Stressors and reactions

Common stressors affecting students:

  • lack of time or resources
  • financial worries
  • unclear academic expectations (e.g., how to study for tests)
  • homesickness, loneliness, loss
  • language barriers, cultural adjustment stress, and isolation

Common reactions to stress:

  • loss of focus and concentration
  • irritability
  • physical tension and/or illnesses
  • avoidance/procrastination
  • exhaustion, lethargy
  • loss of self-confidence, self-esteem
  • sadness, low mood
  • feeling of being overwhelmed
  • changes in eating, sleeping, and exercise habits
  • social withdrawal

Adopt a helpful mindset

Take stock

  • Identify your sources of distress.
  • Determine which sources of stress may be under own control, and which aren’t. Focus on the things you can change.
  • For stressors that you have some control over, ask:
    • What do I need to handle this problem? (information, help, time, a skill, etc.)
    • Where can I get what I need? (library, TA, professor, SASS, classmate, etc.)
    • When will I take care of this?
  • Reflect on what you have done previously to help you cope in similar situations. What resources listed in this section of our website might help you?

Change your mindset

  • It can help to remember that how we perceive situations is an important factor in our stress levels.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen? Is it likely?”
  • Keep things in perspective.
  • Determine the most important thing to do right now and start with that.
  • Believe in your ability to figure things out and do your best under the circumstances.

Resources for a helpful mindset

  • Student Wellness Services offers stress-related workbooks, support groups and appointments.
  • It’s common for students to doubt themselves; there’s even a term for it: “impostor syndrome.” Take a look at our  information on a growth mindset if you are feeling doubt in your academic abilities, or book an appointment with a learning strategist or a counsellor.

Prioritize and plan

Add structure

  • Make a task list; make it as complete as possible.
  • Break large tasks into small, specific ones (try our assignment calculator).
  • Prioritize each item on the task list. Consider factors like due dates, how many marks something is worth, its difficulty level, personal priorities, etc.
  • For each task list item, estimate how much time it might take.
  • Make a schedule for the week and block off time for items on your task list and for relaxation and sleep.
  • Reduce, postpone or eliminate your optional responsibilities.

Anticipate stressful events and plan ahead

Make a change

Change your behaviour

  • Acknowledge your accomplishments every day.
  • Promote your health: eat well, sleep enough, exercise appropriately.
  • Break big tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Make room for some fun!

Change your situation

  • Reduce distractions.
  • Study somewhere else.
  • Go to sleep earlier at night.
  • Review your course or program with your prof, an academic advisor, or a career counsellor.

Bust your stress

  • Try relaxation techniques, yoga, or T’ai Chi, or go for a walk or a run. Watch a comedy. Talk to a loved one.
  • Do what you know works for you: use your own healthy stress-relieving activities.

Get help

Resources at Queen’s

Queen’s offers a wide range of support for students who are managing stress. (You may like to look into getting support from more than one of these resources because stress can have a few different sources.)

There are plenty of resources on campus to help you; please ask for help if you can’t find what you’re looking for.