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Psychology student Mark’s study tips for stressful times 

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Two university students chatting and walking outside

A psychology student’s top study tips 

Everyone experiences stress differently. During times of uncertainty, many students might feel it a lot more than others. It can be tough juggling priorities and keeping yourself both motivated and productive when there is so much going on in the world. That’s why we have enlisted the help of model student to provide some study tips for tackling this together

Mark is a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences student who started studying with Swinburne Online in 2017. Prior to that, he was running various businesses and was heavily into cycling, taking out a win in the Masters Road National Championships and sometimes training up to 18 hours per week. This, combined with raising a toddler at the time, ended up leading to some immense pressure and eventual hospitalisation for Mark, who had developed a virus and was left bedridden with some extra time on his hands. 

Why Psychology?

‘After going through something so serious you can’t help getting a new perspective on life, and I began to think that I would like to be involved in health care.’ 

Believe it or not, Mark decided to study psychology by reading entire textbooks on the subject. He concluded that if he made it through them, he might be capable of completing a degree, and he was! 

He completed his first assignments while he recovered outside of hospital. When Mark was well enough, he wound up his business, sold the house and moved his family to the country. For the first time in 23 years, Mark was doing what he enjoyed, while still being able to study. 

Studying online suited me perfectly. All the learning materials and resources are online so there is no need to battle peak hour or cram onto a train to get a book from the library. I can study when and where I want.

How Mark improves on his studies

Long after the glow of enrolment fades, Mark knows that studying can sometimes get monotonous. That’s why he is always looking for new ways to stay on top of content, prepare for exams, and write assignments. Trying new ways to study helps Mark find his best level of focus and motivation. 

He also believes that utilising feedback is a great way to improve academically, so that he can address his shortcomings for next time. By choosing to be open and thoughtful in the response to his failings, Mark always hopes to see improvement. 

Cycling taught me that I am competitive with myself rather than others, so self-improvement is important.”

Mark’s psychology tips for these stressful times

Mark has noticed that many people choose to withdraw into their own world socially when they are stressed. This surprises him as he typically responds to stress by reaching out to others via phone calls or social media. You may have seen him frequenting your social platform, Connect with some great advice for his peers. Mark believes that stress comes from your perception of challenging times, rather than from the challenges themselves. He hopes that this insight might help others reduce their stress levels during this time. 

[This] helps me to know that I am in control of my stress, and can choose how external challenges will affect me based on my outlook… I can choose to be the author of my own book.

Plans for the future

Mark is currently part-way through the last subject of his degree and is very proud of how far he has come. 

It is one of the best things I have ever done. My life has completely changed for the experience; my financial position, friendships, relationship, relationships with my kids and outlook have changed significantly.

Focus exercises and healthy tips to help with study stress

Here are some proven stress study tips that can take the edge off stressful days and help you find the focus you need to make it through the day. 

Breathe or meditate

Taking just a few minutes to focus on your breathing is scientifically proven to lower your heartrate, relax your body and, you guessed it, help you regain focus. Even taking 10 minutes to sit down to meditate, you will begin to fight the effects of stress. 

Mindfulness has been known to stave off stress and keep distractions at bay. A quick one-minute technique focused around breathing can help bring you back into the present. 

There are a variety of apps that provide simple breathing meditations, such as Calm, Headspace and Smiling Mind. Or you can follow a simple breathing exercise like this. 

Write it out

A quick way to gain a little perspective is to simply grab a pen and write down everything that’s clogging up your attention. And we mean everything – include emails you need to send, conversations you need to have, even life-admin you need to achieve outside of work. 

Then, when you have your list, prioritise. Decide what must be done today and set aside tasks that can wait until tomorrow.  

Work in short bursts

Once you have your to-do list and have prioritised pick one task at a time – and don’t move onto anything else until you’ve completed that task. 

Tackling each task in short bursts can be a really effective way of managing your time and regaining focus. Methods like the Pomodoro technique– where you work 25 minutes on then 5 minutes off – can help you stay focused and complete the work at hand. 


Exercising is an excellent way to maintain your stress levels, increasing your heart rate and blood flow. When you exercise a chemical called serotonin is released in your body. This chemical can actually increase your happiness levels and alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Did you know that taking a short 10-minute walk you are still able to get many of the same benefits as a full workout routine and it is also a fantastic way to clear your head! 

Eating healthy

Consuming an excessive amount of sugar, salt or caffeine can have negative effects and can lead to an increase in stress levels. By eating foods that are high in Vitamin B and C, and Magnesium, you can recover your energy level and reduce your anxiety. Foods such as green vegetables, high citrus fruits and nuts are all excellent sources of nutrients your body needs to help reduce stress. 

Sometimes it helps to pause and have a think about what could be causing your stress to stop the freight train of stress eating your way through all your favourite comfort foods. 

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is vital to your mental and physical wellbeing and it’s an easy one to get right. Recently, The National Sleep Foundation released new recommendations that adults need between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night. 

While it may seem like a good idea to stay up all night working on that assignment that just has to be finished, it is actually having the opposite effect.  

By establishing a healthy sleeping routine, you will be able to ensure you are getting enough rest to recharge your batteries and reduce your stress levels. This will also help to promote higher levels of concentration and improve your memory. 

Find the right festive balance

While it’s important to stay on top of your studies, make sure you find the right balance. Don’t spend the entire break studying. However, make sure you find time to study and use the break to your advantage. You’ve deserved a break so make sure you take one – find the right balance between study celebrations.  

Remember, whatever it is you enjoy doing, take some time to enjoy yourself.  

If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed with your studies or balancing your time, just remember, Swinburne Online offers 7-day support for whenever you are in need.