As we approach the end of exam season it’s weird to think that my first year of Uni has come to an end. This year seems to have flown by, and I’m sure that was helped by the long holidays and early finish for my exams. It’s been an educational year, both academically and personally. From learning java programming and finding out how university assessments and exams actually work, to experiencing brand new sports and fending for myself in halls.
Finishing my exams was a bit odd. It was strange to come out of the exam hall and have nothing urgent that needed doing. The only thing I needed to do in the next 2 weeks was pack, which doesn’t take that long when you have everything in an 8.5m squared room and it all needs to go. This left lots of time for me to think and some of it was spent thinking about what I did this year that helped reduce stress, and what I can do next year to reduce stress even more.
I think one of the biggest benefits for me was cooking. I came into Uni being able to cook a fair number of meals and with a meal plan so that I knew what I was having for each day. For some people this might be a bit too structured, but it allowed me to be confident going in that I would get good meals without too much repetition and prevented me from having to think too much about what to buy in the shops. At the very least, I recommend learning to cook a few meals at home, even if that is just beans on toast and chicken nuggets and chips.
I also often cooked in bulk meaning that I made 2 or more portions of a dish at a time. I then froze the extra portions to have next time I wanted that meal. This works particularly well for curry and lasagne. Although cooking in bulk takes a little more time to cook on the day, it saved me a lot of time in the long run and meant that I didn’t have to cook when I was stressed and working towards a tight deadline, I just had to reheat some food and possibly cook some rice or pasta. Cooking in bulk is not a new or unique idea, but most people who do this seem to cook a meal and eat the portions on consecutive days. This is absolutely fine but, for me, this meant my meals were too repetitive in a short space of time. Also, it means that you’ll likely have to cook more when trying to meet deadlines.
Of course, dealing with stress also requires looking at what causes the stress; my course. Whilst I’ve loved my first year of Computer Science, degrees come with deadlines which encourage stress.
I’ve found over this year that I work best close to deadlines. This is not super helpful as it often means that I struggle to start work on projects and revision early enough. Being ahead of the game is very useful at University. Because of the nature of the content, most deadlines for each module come at the same time (week 5 and week 10). This means that you have a lot more free time at the beginning of term. Starting coursework as soon as possible is really helpful as it means that you can spread the workload over a longer period of time. Next year I aim to start my work much earlier than I did this year.
On a similar theme, I plan to start revising for my exams next year in term 1. This seems very early and a long time before exams (which it is), but I think it will reduce my stress levels exponentially when it comes to term 3. I don’t plan to do lots of revision in terms 1 and 2, but I will make revision resources for each topic as the topic finishes, rather than covering every topic during the Easter holidays. I’m also going to use spaced revision, where I revise a topic, then re-revise it a week later, then a month later and so on. Hopefully this will make the Easter holidays and term 3 less stressful.
And finally, taking time out every now and again has helped ease the stress. Just going for a walk around campus, or going to a society event can give you the break you need to feel more positively about everything you need to do.
Stress is a part of University and of life. Learning how to deal with it is a useful skill and, for me, it’s all about being prepared and organised.