We are living through difficult times with millions of people struggling with anxiety about the pandemic, job uncertainty, and isolation. And for young people in particular, times are tough. For years they will have looked forward to leaving home and starting their lives at university, but with social distancing measures in place life is not what they expected.

When they should be having the “best time of their lives”, students are instead stuck watching lectures and joining tutorials from their rented accommodation, with little chance of personal interaction or meeting new people. According to the most recent Natwest Student Living Index, this has led to a situation where only 41 per cent of students say they are enjoying their programme and over half also saying they are suffering from stresses over their coursework with little social support.

Moving away form home and starting a new life at university is a stressful time for everyone, with new cities, new living situations, and relationships. Research shows that stress is common amongst young people, with research showing that nearly three-quarters of Gen-Zers saying that they “often feel stressed”. However, the stress should be more than offset by the enjoyment of the experiences. If stresses become unmanageable, then students should contact their university health services or doctor to find local support.

Causes of student stress

1. Curriculum

Between exams, coursework and classes, students often find themselves overloaded and exhausted. It can be difficult to prioritise, but three years at university is not only about studying for a course but also learning life skills such as how to prioritise and how to focus to avoid being overwhelmed, both of which help prepare students for real life and help them succeed.

2. Finances

Everybody worries about money and students are no different. The huge £20,000+ debts students are asked to take on today in order to attend university are a common cause of stress for young people, a situation not helped by a low minimum wage for the jobs they can take on. The key to reducing stress around finances is to set budgets, follow them as closely as possible, and find someone to talk through your money concerns. Talking about money remains a taboo, but it is only through open discussion that the weight of concern will be lifted by finding out many others are in the same situation and your worries are shared.

3. Data overload

No generation of young people have ever been exposed to the volume of data that Gen Z are faced with every day. The internet, smartphones, social media, and 24/7 news cycles mean that it can feel like their is no escape from constant connectivity. The digital world can be a boon for creativity and finding connection, but it is important to learn when to switch off and find some solace away from the constant overstimulation.

4. Post-graduation plans

Choosing the right path to take after graduation has always been a worry for students, but in the current climate and with the economy buffeted by a global pandemic and Brexit makes planning for the future harder than ever. However, whilst the outlook may seem bleak today, the situation will improve and opportunities will appear in the future. It is also important to remember, that unlike in previous generations young people today will likely change jobs and careers on multiple occasions over their lifetimes, and so there will be plenty of opportunities to change paths in the future.

How to manage stress

Everyone manages stress differently, but one of the best methods is simply to have open discussions with friends and family. You are not alone and there is no need to suffer in silence. Beyond open discussions, there are a wealth of other more unconventional tactics and strategies that can also help people manage their stress, from connecting with pets or spending time in nature, to cleaning living spaces or holding social-distanced social events.

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