Ways to manage stress: Video tips from a real counsellor

Published on December 16, 2021 |Last updated on January 19, 2022

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Stress is a reaction anyone can have when facing something that’s tough. And it’s a feeling that many post-secondary students experience during school. As a student, you may have just a few things (read — a lot!) on your mind like exams, friends, dating, work, family, finances and more. When things happen that feel stressful to us, we can become anxious, upset and overwhelmed (especially if everything seems to be happening at once). Learning about ways to manage stress — and practising the coping strategies that fit best / are safest for you — can empower you to check in with yourself, address issues when they come up and access the supports you want / need.

Here, a professional counsellor at Good2Talk — Counsellor Karli (she / her) — shares her coping strategies, affirmations and tips to manage stress at school (without having to talk to someone, if you’re not ready to yet).

Where can I watch a video about ways to manage stress?

You can press play on the video below to watch Good2Talk Counsellor Karli share her top tips to manage stress!

In the video, the counsellor shares personal tips from her own experiences using her preferred language. As you watch the video, you may want to take note of any parts that resonate and feel helpful to you!

Video transcript

(Info about Good2Talk and the video is displayed on the screen. Good2Talk Counsellor Karli is looking at the screen.)

Hi Good2Talk callers!

I wanted to share with you my favourite tip on managing school stress — university stress in general. It might sound easy, but it’s so important — it really helped me out throughout my university journey.

Regardless of whether it’s a paper that you’re writing or a test that you’re studying for, it’s so important to break each piece into chunks so that you’re not looking at the entire assignment as a whole, because that can be really, really overwhelming of course.

My best advice is to kind of schedule it out in chunks. So, if it’s a paper go, “I’m going to spend this amount of time, I’m going to bang out my introduction.”

When that’s done, please reward yourself, whether that’s 15 minutes of TV — it doesn’t have to be a long amount of time — but you need to reward yourself because you’re doing such a good job and it really helps with motivation and avoiding procrastination and just supporting yourself so that you know you can do it, right.

Bang out that introduction or those few questions you have for your exam (if you’re studying in sections) — reward yourself after. Really take that self-care time, that’s so important. And then schedule 15 minutes, 20 minutes, however long you need and then go, OK, next step, I’m going to head right into the next part of the paper or your studying routine or whatever.

Only focus on one chunk at a time. Do not look at it as a whole, because that’s so overwhelming, and the thing is, when you feel overwhelmed, then it’s hard to even start, and that’s when that motivation is really hard to find.

Take it from me — this really, really helped me. Just schedule out little chunks at a time, and please remember to reward yourself when you achieve each of those chunks. It will seem so much more bearable in the end.

And also, remember you got into university for a reason. You are smart, you can do this, and no matter what, you are resilient, and you’re going to get through this, and you’re going to do so great. OK? So just keep going, you got this. Bye!

(Karli waves. Good2Talk’s logo appears.)

Where can I read about ways to manage stress at school?

Below, Counsellor Karli shares more info and tips for support and encouragement to manage stress throughout your post-secondary education.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role at Good2Talk?

“I’ve been a Good2Talk counsellor for seven months and I really enjoy it! I’ve completed an undergraduate degree in psychology and a graduate degree in forensic psychology. I’m very familiar with the effects of post-secondary stress in all of its forms. My role at Good2Talk is to provide emotional support to post-secondary students in an understanding, empathetic and non-judgmental manner. It’s my goal to empower students by working with them to determine coping mechanisms that will help reduce their stress during this time of transition. When I personally feel stress creeping up, my favourite activity to distract myself is colouring!”

What are some common topics young adults are reaching out to Good2Talk about?

“Although there’s often a variety of reasons that Good2Talk callers reach out for help, I’ve noticed there are common themes that come up. Students often reach out due to feelings of intense stress brought on by their own expectations to do well in school, or the expectations that are placed on students by their family members. It’s very common for Good2Talk callers to mention their difficulty in meeting project timelines, their struggles with procrastination, perfectionism and burnout, as well as their family members’ expectations for ‘perfect’ grades and the stress that accompanies feelings of failing their loved ones if these expectations are not attainable or realistic.”   

Do you have any tips for young adults who may be calling in for the first time?

“To students calling in for the first time, please know that you’re not alone! Student life is hard, and this support service exists because it’s needed. Some callers feel like their reason for calling in is ‘not serious enough’ and some callers feel like they shouldn’t be calling if they’re not having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. This is not the case, and there’s no reason for calling in that’s too small. Post-secondary stress is real — it can be overwhelming and painful. Everyone needs a little help sometimes, and that’s OK!”

What stressed you out the most when you were in school, and how did you manage it?

“There were so many things that stressed me out when I was in school. However, my largest hurdle was overcoming my perfectionism. I was very hard on myself and felt disappointed if I received any mark lower than an A. I saw myself as a failure, and this is not the case! I was able to overcome this hurdle by practising the steps for managing stress that I mention in my video, and also by practising positive self-talk over and over, even when it felt silly at the beginning. Regardless of your letter grade, you’re not a failure and you still have every opportunity to be successful in your chosen career path!”

What are your top tips to manage stress during post-secondary school?

“I have a few favourite tips for Good2Talk callers as it relates to managing stress throughout post-secondary school. (I also discuss these concepts in my video.)

  1. Break down your assignments / studying into smaller sections / chunks.
  2. Take short breaks in between the sections you created for yourself.
  3. Reward yourself after completing each section — you deserve it!

Your brain needs time to think and process information — it can’t do that without breaks. And here’s a little secret — your brain will work faster if you take these short breaks compared to if you don’t take any. If you are someone who benefits from structure and scheduling, you can schedule an amount of time you’re going to work on one piece of the assignment. Set an alarm if that helps! If you’re someone who struggles with procrastination, you might consider setting another alarm for when your rest time is up so you can get back to it. Not only does this give your brain time to get back to work, but you’re also treating yourself with kindness, which is so important during this transition. You are also reducing the likelihood for procrastination and burnout to occur by focusing on one task at a time instead of the whole picture. Last but not least, try to remember to breathe, that you are strong and that you can do this!”  

Stress is something that many post-secondary students experience. You may also notice that feelings of stress can come and go depending on what’s happening in your life. If you’d like support or more ways to manage stress, you can contact Good2Talk’s professional counsellors and volunteer crisis responders 24/7.

Good2Talk would like to thank Counsellor Karli for her participation in this story and for supporting youth mental health and well-being across Canada!

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