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Look out for your own stress symptoms

Stress can creep up on you without you realising it: You can see it in other people, but not in yourself, according to stress counsellor

Exams, deadlines, tests and more exams. Or – study, eat, sleep.

It’s the loop that for some students there is no way out of. It results in headaches, lost social life, anxiety and even depression.

It’s good if you feel you can deal with it yourself, but sometimes it might be too much to handle. In that case there is a place to go, where professional psychologists will help you out.

So what is … stress?

Henrik Holm Hansen is a psychologist at the student counselling service Studenterrådgivningen, a free service for all university students. Henrik often helps students who have exam related stress, so we sat down in his office to talk about what stress really is.

Stress is a difficult concept to grasp. Sometimes you might not even feel that you’re stressed. It’s easier to see it in other people. They start to become edgy, nervous and often we can’t even recognize them anymore because of their strange behavior.

“The first step would be to admit that you are stressing out. Only then can the psychologist help you build some tools for dealing with it, which you can also use later in similar situations“, says Henrik.

Blind to your own stress

People are often blind to their own needs and it’s difficult for them to realize that they are stressing out, according to Henrik Holm Hansen. They don’t see that their bodies are telling them to ‘slow down, take it easy’ and their minds are under constant pressure.

So what if you are stressed but you don’t know it?
“Observe your bodily symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, pain in the belly, anxiety, high blood pressure. These are the indicators related to stress“, suggests the psychologist.

If you are having these symptoms repeatedly every time before exams or any other situation, it would be a good idea to come talk about it with a psychologist, who can help you find ways to solve a problem yourself.

Under pressure

Henrik notices that students who come to counseling sessions are generally very ambitious about their own performance. They often have unrealistic views of their boundaries. Students strive to perform well, get highest grades, but the actual reality, and their own well-being, is often not taken into consideration.

There is a lot of pressure from the outside. The job market situation is not in the greatest shape today, especially for young people, according to Henrik Holm Hansen. Youth unemployment in Denmark is twice as high as the total unemployment rate. The same situation applies in the rest of Europe. “Pressure from the outside is more or less the same for every student“, says Henrik.

“We are all playing by the same rules. But not everybody pulls their own head off for getting a lower grade or for failing an exam”.

Read also interview with stress think tank expert, ‘Strategy for combating student stress’.

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