Guest Article: Stress Awareness Month and the MyTherapy App

Ruairidh Barlow works for MyTherapy, a free app that helps users to document and maintain their health, with medicine reminders, health advice, and daily goals. He writes for The Courier in Stress Awareness Month, warning of the dangers of stress, and of the need to look after one’s mental wellbeing.

‘She’s stressed about exams, but apart from that, she’s fine’.

‘Sorry, I’m just a bit stressed’.

‘This dissertation is driving me crazy; I swear it’ll be the end of me’.

All throw-away comments we’re accustomed to hearing, especially at this time of year. It’s part of being a student and something you just have to deal with. Few things unite the student body like the empathy for a fellow classmate who hasn’t slept since yesterday morning because their essay was due today. It’s normal. University is not meant to be easy, and it is important to learn how to manage your time. There may be someone who starts their essays two months before they are due, but the chances are, that someone isn’t you.

Whilst it is normal to feel the pressure of an upcoming deadline, it is definitely not healthy. At least, not according to the statistics anyway. Last year’s Student Experience survey, conducted annually by The Guardian, claimed that 87% of students suffer from some form of stress or anxiety. One in five students have had suicidal thoughts. Only 25% of these students said they would, or know how to, seek help. These are fairly harrowing statistics, which suggest that this is a significant problem. Not everyone is coping with the pressure, and it’s essential that people begin to speak up and seek help.

April is Stress Awareness Month and, as per the name, it is the perfect time to raise awareness about stress and what students can do to counteract it as we approach exam season. It can be difficult to talk about these things: stress is often invisible, and there is no pill or medicine that cures it. This makes it more important to talk about it. Talking about it could be the difference to someone who decides to confront it, versus simply bottling the problem up. Stress weights on your mind, and unburdening yourself can sometimes be the difference between a pass or a fail, avoiding a regrettable break-up, or even staying rid of more sinister illnesses, such as depression.

Stress affects your mood, your body and your behavior; it is an all-consuming poison. The good news is that the cure is neither painful, nor has negative side effects. Combating stress involves resting properly, eating well and relaxing well. Socializing, physical activity, reading or listening to music are all examples of active relaxation which help to avoid stress. On the other hand, sadly, watching TV and playing video games do not help to reduce stress. While they may seem helpful, they do not give the brain the break it needs and even increase stress over the long-term.

It’s easy to lose track and prioritize other things, so attack the problem properly. Create a schedule and stick to it. We developed the versatile MyTherapy app, which helps to manage medication and stay healthy, whatever the ailment. Use the journal function to keep track of your stress and any symptoms, and if it helps, you can share it with friends or family for extra support. Set a reminder schedule on the app to go for a run twice a week, or maybe to read for 15 minutes each night before bed.

Such things seem simple, like something you needn’t think about, or maybe you just don’t have the time. But 2 hours of overstressed, feverish and sleep deprived scribbling down of notes is not nearly as effective as an hour’s work by a well-rested, relaxed brain. We all get stressed from time to time – the important thing is making sure it is just from time to time.