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Breaking up with Stress

Illustration by Hope McConnell

Stress has always and will always be a key part of any person’s studies. Whether you’re an apprentice for a trade, in the midst of a diploma or in your fifth year (and counting) of study to becoming a doctor, stress will be holding your hand the whole way through. I am nearing the end of my degree and through the years I have learnt a thing or two of how to rid that bugger from my life, or at least get him to sit in the naughty corner for a bit.

Nature is nurture

In the middle of my first mental breakdown of last year, my friend (and saviour) rescued me from my room that hadn’t seen the light of day for three weeks – littered with snack packets and a plethora of empty coffee mugs – and took me out to Muriwai Beach to walk our dogs and run around in the wind and rain. In comparison to the imposingly vast and beautiful world that was around me, I felt small and free and insignificant, as did my university stresses. So now, once a week, I schedule in time to leave my house for something other than university or work; to immerse myself in some form of natural beauty. The beach, a bush walk or a stroll around a grassy park with friends has saved my sanity more times than I can count.


After every submitted assignment or completed test or exam, I let myself buy something; a new piece of jewellery, another piercing, a beverage and a meal with good mates, tickets to a gig, flowers, a Kmart splurge. I do anything that makes me feel super good after completing something super shitty. This has helped in keeping me sane and feeling human, as it’s allowed me to see the light straight after leaving a test where you almost pass out at the sight of question one.

Eat cake and don’t sweat the small stuff

It is imperative you do not get caught up believing grades are the be all and end all. Ultimately the difference between an A+ and a C- is the ‘small stuff’ whether you want to believe that or not. You’re a human. Your purpose on this earth is to simply keep going. Everything else is just a created world made by mankind themselves. Your health, your family, the people who make you smile and laugh, the health of this planet and how you treat the people around you are what really matter. You are a little human in a big world and when you’re a greying, shrinking, toothless old person you won’t look back on your life and think about that shitty grade you received on that test(s), so why get so caught up in it now? Try your hardest. Do as well as you can. But don’t worry if you are not the smartest cookie in the jar, maybe you were just destined to be a cake.

Count your blessings

Each time I get snowed under with work, assignments, study and general life, I make myself remember how lucky I am to be having these issues. I am lucky to be stressed from work because there are people who struggle to find jobs. I am lucky to be stressed over this assignment because there are people in this country who do not have the means to get to university, and there are many, many people in this world, living with very little, who dream of having the ‘stress’ we have and the qualifications we attain. By reminding myself how lucky I am to be stressed over university, it ends up lessening.

I hope this little piece of writing will help you to sit back for a moment, view your stresses a little differently and minimise its effects on your mental health and your wellbeing. And if you haven’t heard it today; you’re doing well kid, look after yourself.

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