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What no one tells you about your final year of studying

Spoiler alert: the final year at varsity is stressful. There’s the very real pressure to pass your finals, not to mention maintaining an active social life, staying healthy and getting enough sleep.

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So, what should you know in order to stay sane during your final year? These things, for starters… 

Your first few years at varsity might have felt carefree, but your final year is bound to get real. Stress and anxiety will be part and parcel of your journey, but with the right attitude, you can navigate various situations with ease. How exactly? Well, you heard it here first.

The situation: stress

Stress is defined as our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. Think looming exams, a breakup, moving to a new city or extra responsibilities from your new part-time job. Even positive changes can pile on the pressure. Not all stress is bad though – in fact, the right amount of stress can help you work more effectively and even give your memory a boost.

The symptoms: Signs of stress include an upset stomach, nausea, frequent headaches, rapid heartbeat, insomnia and low energy. If you notice that your stress response is activated repeatedly, and persists over time, you may start feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. Don’t keep quiet.

The solution: Literally millions of articles and books have been written about coping with stress. The consistent message? Maintain a balanced life with a healthy diet, exercise, enough sleep and relaxation. Talk to people. Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a therapist, you don’t have to shoulder negative stress on your own. As far as your studies are concerned, get organised. Putting a routine and/or schedule in place will give you a better sense of control. Whether that means drawing up an enormous calendar, using an app to help schedule your life or writing reminders on your hand, do it. 

The situation: anxiety

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to a stressful situation. Being anxious from time to time, about a test, a term paper or an exam is completely normal. But if feelings of anxiety persist for longer than 6 months, and they start interfering with your life, then you could be facing a more serious problem.

The symptoms: Anxiety typically manifest as restlessness, the inability to set aside worry, irritability, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, fatigue and heart palpitations.

The solution: You can combat anxiety in much the same way you manage stress. In addition, it’s advisable to cut down on your caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake. It’s a common misconception that these 3 things help you relax, in actual fact, they have the opposite effect. Alcohol changes the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can exacerbate anxiety, and caffeine stimulates your "fight or flight" response, which can exponentially increase anxiety and even trigger a panic attack. If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to focus on your work, if you can’t maintain relationships or complete activities of daily living, it’s very likely that anxiety has got the better of you. Consult a medical professional for advice. 

The situation: burnout

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion brought on by excessive and prolonged stress. It’s the result of unrelenting stress – not the same as too much of it. With stress there is an end in sight, with burnout not so much.

The symptoms: Unlike stress, burnout can have much more long-term effects. People suffering from burnout generally experience a cycle of negative emotions, feelings of helplessness, disengagement and a total lack of motivation.

The solution: This is a serious condition and not easily overcome without help. It is imperative that you speak to a psychologist or other mental health professional, as the symptoms of burnout can lead to isolation and potential depression. 

If you’re feeling stressed and anxious as your final year rolls out, take your foot off the gas a little. You want to do your best, sure, but it’s also important to balance work with some down time. If you can get home for a couple of weekends, go, and let your mom spoil you with home-cooked meals and a couple of hugs.

Give yourself a night off a week and hang out with some friends, laugh, eat and make plans for the future. Make use of the resources you have on hand, for instance if you’re struggling to bash your CV into shape, ask your tutor for help, or a graduate friend who has already secured a job.

Most importantly, remember that you don’t need to have your entire life mapped out right now. The next few years will be about trial and error, and though you can benefit from putting a plan in place, leave yourself some room for mistakes, you’ll learn just as much from them.

Simplify your life, move to Capitec

While your final year of studies might be the cause of some stress in your life, don’t let your bank add to it. Move to Capitec and open a Global One solution. You’ll get access to 4 free savings plans and pay a low monthly admin fee of R5.

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