With classes starting up, our days will soon be filled with stress and anxiety. Learning how to manage both stress and time could really benefit university students and their overall mental health.

I recently sat down with Najwa Alshammasi, a mental health nurse at the Health and Counselling Centre. She offered some tips to help students manage their stress levels during the school year.

 ESTABLISHING A ROUTINE

You should establish a routine and do your best to stick with it. Alshammasi says, “Taking a look at your schedule now that you’ve registered for classes, and knowing your capabilities is how to figure out what works for you. Ask yourself, ‘What have I managed in the past? What have I struggled with? Moving forward, what can I do differently?’” These questions can help you formulate a plan for the semester.

Keep an agenda. “Everyone has a phone now,” Alshammasi points out. There are calendar apps available. Find which method works for you and use them. “Until you get used to it—eventually that will come natural to you, but I think the first month starting out, it’s good to have things [like that] available,” she says. It is all about trial and error.

SELF-CARE

It is also important to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Exercise­—those are the most important things,” Alshammasi adds.

Get your eight hours of sleep. Go for a walk in between classes. Call up a friend for a quick chat. Take the time to care for your own well-being and you will find your stress levels decreasing.

KNOWING YOUR RESOURCES

“It’s okay to ask for help,” Alshammasi reminds us. For academic support, there is the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre. For physical and mental health support, there is the HCC.

CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE

Alshammasi emphasizes that we should maintain connections with friends and keep in touch with family because they are our support system. “Sometimes when you’re over-stressed, you isolate yourself and forget to connect with people, and that’s very important,” says Alshammasi.

Make time to socialize. Being a university student does not mean that you cannot have a social life.

FINDING A BALANCE

The best way to manage stress from university life is to find the right balance. A mix of academic focus, self-care, socializing, and even having fun are all part of a balanced lifestyle as a student. Organize your time and do not let yourself be overwhelmed by one activity.

Alshammasi suggests mindfulness—the act of being present. “Trying not to worry about what’s in the past and what’s going to happen in the future, and just doing what is in the now. [Mindfulness] keeps you away from developing anxiety, depression, and stress,” she says.

POSITIVITY

Stress is often seen in a negative light, Alshammasi mentions. Stress can be a good thing—if it is the right amount. It can be motivating. It can push you to work hard to conquer the causes behind the stress. Having a positive attitude can also reduce stress and anxiety levels before they grow out of our control.