We have a study tips booklet put together by Alison Kingan, former Vice President Student Support available.

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Struggling with stress? 

Take a look at this guide for some useful tips on how to beat stress, including exercise, taking control of your thoughts, social networks and many more. 
While we commonly think of stress as too much mental or emotional pressure, physiological or physical stress is also important. Stress can affect how you feel, think and behave as well as how your body works, because your mind and body constantly interact. 

What is stress and why is it important to manage it? 

Stress causes a surge of hormones in your body, adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure and provides extra energy. Our bodies response to stress usually regulates itself. We all need a bit of stress to get us motivated and out of bed in the morning. However, stress becomes problematic when there's too much or too little. 
Prolonged stress can cause a range of physical problems including headaches, stomach upsets and high blood pressure. More often, stress leads to psychological problems such as anxiety disorders and depression. 

So here are 10 tips to looking after your mental health… 

1. Talk about your feelings 

Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Don’t forget you can use our dedicated Peer Support, Through the Gate and Nightline services. For more information, visit our website. 

2. Getting outdoors 

If able to, regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Try going outdoors in between studying to keep your brain and other vital organs healthy, there is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.

3. Eat well

Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Why not try starting with eating your 5 a day to give you the healthy boost you need to thrive! 

4. Mindfulness 

Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness. Pay attention to the present moment through simple breathing and meditation practices which increase awareness of thoughts and feelings so as to reduce stress and anxiety and boost levels of attention and concentration. 

5. Keep in touch with your community 

There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, sign up to one of our community meet ups and introduce yourself to fellow OU students. If you can’t attend a meet up, get in touch with other students via the forums. 

6. Take a break from the screen 

A change of scenery when you are studying at a computer can prevent eye strain, taking regular breaks is important to maintaining not only your physical health, but your mental health too. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. 

7. Ask for help 

None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed with a busy workload. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Contact the OU Student Support Team for some friendly advice around taking a break from your studies. 

8. Do something you’re good at 

What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing before you started studying? Allow yourself some ‘me time’ to boost your self-esteem. 

9. Be realistic 

OU students tend to live busy lives, whether you are a student parent/carer, working full time or volunteering, ensure you are realistic with your time and don’t over commit. Try not to allow external pressures to take over and prevent you from looking after yourself. 

10. Celebrate success & reward achievement 

Set yourself goals in a notebook and then track what you have achieved. Talk to others about your accomplishments and more importantly, reward yourself with a treat!


Responding to distressed and suicidal students

Student Volunteers/students are not responsible for the actions of others, nor are they expected to try and resolve such issues when they arise.  

If the student is clear that they plan to end their life and you know their name, address and/or phone number then you could phone 999 and share this information with the police. The police will then be able to make a welfare call to the student. 

If the student says they haven't made plans and don't intend to act on their suicidal thoughts, but are feeling distressed, you should recommend that they speak to their GP, their emergency mental health professional (if they have one), or that they contact the Samaritans by phone or email. For any OU-related issues, they should be encouraged to contact their Student Support Team. 

If you have been affected by dealing with someone in distress you can also contact the Samaritans or Big White Wall (for free mental health and wellbeing support). 

There are many services and organisations that offer help and support to people experiencing emotional distress.

The Samaritans

Phone: UK and ROI: 116 123 
Email: jo@samaritans.org 

Visit website 



Phone: 0300 123 3393 
Email: info@mind.org.uk 

Visit website 


Mental Health Foundation 

Visit website


Choose Life

Visit website 


Breathing Space Scotland

A free and confidential phone line service for any individual who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to. 
Phone: 0800 838587

Visit website 


Lifeline (Northern Ireland)

A crisis response helpline service for people experiencing distress or despair 
Phone: 0808 808 8000

Visit website 


Befrienders Worldwide

Work worldwide to provide emotional support and reduce suicide. They listen to people who are in distress and don't judge or tell them what to do.

Visit website 


Further documents


Dealing with suicidal feelings