Managing Stress

Stress is a natural short term emotion that exists to help us manage difficult or dangerous situations. Stress is not a threat to us, if it sticks to this short term job. In other words, we do not have to be afraid of stress.

However, if we experience stress over a longer term, it can have negative consequences for us. Stress can make you feel overwhelmed, irritable and anxious. It can cause you to have low self-esteem, experience racing thoughts, worry, find it hard to concentrate and have difficulty in making decisions [1].  It can also have long term consequences for our physical health, including headaches, pain, dizziness and damage to your heart.

However, it is possible to take positive steps to manage and reduce the stress you experience. What works for you will depend on your personality, the circumstances you are in and whether the stress is caused by your own internal thoughts or external factors in your environment. This may mean you need to experiment with a few strategies to find something that works really well for you. Below we have listed some tips to help you manage stress – you can also find more throughout this site. Experiment and find the way that works for you.

Tips for Managing Stress


Exercise has been shown to be extremely effective at reducing stress in the short and long term. Even low level exercise such as taking a brief walk can help.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks has been shown to help you reduce stress and avoid exhaustion, which make us more prone to stress. You can find more information on taking breaks here – “The Importance of Taking Breaks

Don’t let Stress Bully you into Making it Worse

Stress can make us more likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours that make the situation worse – e.g. by encouraging us to work longer and longer hours, so that we become more tired and stressed. Be aware of your own behaviour and whether what you are doing is helping you to destress or become more stressed. Ask yourself, how is this helping me? Then take control of what you do next.

Don’t let Stress Bully you into Avoiding Things that will Help

Stress can sometimes make you want to avoid things that will actually make the situation and how you feel better. For instance, if there is a particular piece of academic work you are worried about, it can make you avoid starting it. This makes you worry for longer and leaves you with less time to complete it – making it more stressful.

Face Your Workload and Prioritise it

Prioritising tasks can help you get an accurate perception of what you need to do and help to manage your stress. Write a list of the tasks you need to complete and then put each task into one of the four categories. Once you have categorised the tasks, work through the categories from the most important. 

Ask yourself if the task is: 

  1. urgent and very important;
  2. important but not urgent; 
  3. urgent but not important; or
  4. neither urgent nor important  

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being in the present and being aware of the current experiences around you, instead of being distracted by the past or the future [2]; [3]. Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be a beneficial intervention to managing stress and increasing wellbeing, in a number of studies [3]. 

Use the Support Around you

Talk to someone. You could talk to your friends, family, supervisors or support services in your university. They may help you to think of something you may not have considered or help you to regain perspective. Sometimes just sharing a problem with someone else can help you to feel more supported and appreciated and this can help lower your stress.


Sleep can help us to manage negative thoughts and emotions and provide us with the energy to tackle the problems we face. See “Sleep and Why it is Important“.

Have Some Fun

Having fun and pleasure is a human need. Fun can also help to reduce the stress you are feeling, reset your emotional equilibrium and provide you with energy and positive feelings. While PGR studies are likely to be demanding on your time, making the space for fun and pleasure will help you to feel better and recharge you for your work.

Manage your Emails

One way of managing stress is to deal effectively with emails. There can be a lot of emails that are sent and received within an organisation and coping with these emails can help to reduce stress. 

According to the NHS (2017), we can practice the ‘4 Ds’  

Delete: Can you delete the email? Is it relevant to you?  

Do: Can you quickly email back? Or is the email urgent? 

Delegate: Can you send the email to someone else who can help or deal with the matter better? 

Defer: Set some time aside during the day to answer emails.

Video Resources

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PGR Students Talk About Stress and What They do to Manage Their Stress During Their Studies

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Prof. Tal Ben-Shahar (Harvard University) Discusses Stress and Wellbeing



NHS. (2017). How to deal with stress – NHS. Retrieved August 29, 2019, from


Kabat-Zinn, J. (n.d.). Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future.


Thompson, B. L., & Waltz, J. (2007). Everyday mindfulness and mindfulness meditation: Overlapping constructs or not? Personality and Individual Differences, 43(7), 1875–1885.