Recognising the Signs of Stress

Recognising the signs of stress in your own body might be new to you. But, you’re not alone. Stress can have all kinds of crazy effects on your body that many people don’t even realise are stress related.

When we are stressed our bodies naturally go into a primal “fight or flight mode” meaning a whole bunch of hormones are released into our bodies that put it into a hyper alert state readying us to either fight potential threats or run away…. Not the most ideal state to be in when you want to study.  Being stressed for a prolonged period of time takes a toll on your brain and body and can have an impact on your studies and performance at university.

It can be very easy to get bogged down in the pressure of keeping on top of your uni work. Often, you can become so focused on meeting deadlines and studying that you don’t notice the signs that you are stressed. It’s at this point that things tend to go downhill and your studies suffer. That’s why recognising the signs of stress is important. 

Here are some of the common signs to look for that can indicate you may be stressed and in need of a break.


Poor sleep

When we are stressed our bodies release chemicals that cause our brains to be alert. Over prolonged periods of time this can begin to interfere with our sleeping patterns, making it hard for us to get to sleep and stay asleep. Leaving you feeling less than refreshed when you wake up.


Trouble retaining information

When stress hormones are released, our body assumes there is an impending threat. Therefore our brains tend to become hyper aware and focus more on unconsciously scanning our surroundings for potential threats and danger. This means that there is much less capacity for it to be giving full attention to what your lecturer is saying or remembering notes you read and so much less of this information is absorbed by your brain.



The stress induced fight or flight mode also has a direct impact on our regular bodily functions. Our bodies will focus more of its energy on the functions you would need to fight or run. Functions like blood flow to your muscles and heart and an increase in adrenaline hormones. As it focuses on these functions it tends to slow other functions such as digestion and our immune systems which help us to fight diseases. After prolonged periods of time this can make us susceptible to sicknesses such as colds and flus.


Sore muscles, other aches and pains

As mentioned above being in a state of stress means your body will make sure your muscles are ready to use at a moment’s notice, this means they hold a lot of tension and tend not to relax. This can lead to tension headaches and other musculoskeletal aches and pains.



While it’s important to make sure you stay on top of uni work, it’s important to regularly destress so you can study effectively. Recognising the signs of stress in your body and making time to relax can help your body to come out of the fight or flight mode and function at a level that is much more conducive to studying. Meditation, exercise or just taking some time to chill out and get away for a while are all good ways to relax.


Check out these resources to help get you started: 

Remember, if you are struggling with uni or student life the SAS (Student Advocacy & Support) team are here to help with free, independent support. You can make an appointment here

Our Welfare and Wellbeing page also contains info on other places you can get support.


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We know sometimes being a student can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when you also have to balance other pressures like work, home and social life. That’s why you should practice self-care!

Having problems with sleep or want better quality rest? Try out a bedtime routine.

Every semester Student Advocacy & Support has contact with many students experiencing stress that is impacting on their studies. A lot of cases involve little issues that have been ignored in favour of other pressing issues like ensuring that they are getting study done.

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