University student Rachel Tait chills out and reads a book. She has trouble balancing work, university and life.
University student Rachel Tait chills out and reads a book. She has trouble balancing work, university and life. Brett Wortman

Students struggle for balance

IMAGINE studying full-time at university, working to support yourself and trying to find precious time to sit back and relax.

For University of the Sunshine Coast students such as Rachel Tait it's a battle they don't have to imagine because they live with it every day.

Little wonder a new study has found Australians aged 18-25 are more stressed than ever.

The study by the Australian Psychological Society found more than 50% of young people blamed their financial situation for their stress levels.

The survey also found a staggering one-in-eight young people reported severe stress, with 30% identifying the workplace as the cause.

The report - Stress and Wellbeing in Australia in 2011: A state of the nation survey - suggests the challenge of finding and keeping work may be contributing to the high levels of stress in younger Australians, with those under 25 reporting the lowest levels of job satisfaction and work-life balance.

And in a worrying trend, 40% of Australians report the use of alcohol in an effort to manage their stress and 64% turn to food.

Trying to further her education, 20-year-old Rachel knows what it is like to bite off more than she can chew.

"I want to do well at university, but to afford to go I've got to work and sometimes there isn't that flexibility," she said.

"You can't always tell your employer that they are giving you too many hours or you can't work a shift because of an exam. You just don't have that balance."

And she isn't alone.

Final-year university student Brooke Potter said that the financial pinch increased her stress levels.

"I haven't had enough time to work. I make enough money just for the basics, but you don't have money for the unexpected, like your car breaking down," Ms Potter said.

APS executive director Professor Lyn Littlefield said the levels of stress among young Australians was concerning.

"Research shows that excessive stress can affect your work, home life, relationships and physical health," she said.

The Sunshine Coast lifestyle is beckoning students to abandon their studies and enjoy life on the Coast.

USC student Kaitlyn Boardman knows all too well the temptation of wanting to drop study to take some time for herself.

"I'm unemployed because I can't study full-time and work, and because of that I still live at home," she said.

"I feel that there is no time to do the things I want to do but I try and see my friends when I can and go to the beach just so I don't have a breakdown."

Professor Littlefield encouraged not just 18-25 year olds but all Australians to try to make small adjustments to their lives in order to manage their stress.

"If your stress levels are stopping you leading a happy and healthy lifestyle, you can take action," she said.

"If needed you can seek help from an expert psychologist who can help manage the effect of stress on you and your family."

 

Seven tips to manage stress

  1. Identify warning signs
  2. Identify triggers
  3. Establish routines
  4. Spend time with loved ones
  5. Look after your health
  6. Notice your self-talk
  7. Practise relaxation

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