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Top five tips for managing stress during decision making

Guest posts

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Psychology and Sport Science
Category: All about university

31 July 2023

Eimar Lee

We asked Dr Eimear Lee, one of ARU’s brilliant psychology lecturers, to provide some advice on how best to manage the uncertainty that can surround A-level results and Clearing. Here are her top five tips.

Here at ARU, we make Clearing easy and simple. We understand that for many students it can be a worrying and difficult time – but we are here to make it as stress-free as possible.

Our team of highly trained staff are here to guide you to make the best decision and help you feel confident in your next steps. We have helped thousands of other students through the Clearing process over the years – and now it’s time to help you!

Clearing is a time of great opportunity but it can also be a time of uncertainty. That feeling of butterflies in your stomach or your heart beating faster than usual are typical ways in which one’s body tries to manage challenges – and this is a good thing! It helps to allow you to focus on the task ahead and can be advantageous in the short-term. When stress persists over a longer period it can present problems, so it’s important to take time to manage how you respond to stress.

Eimear has suggested five scientifically supported ways to manage any stress you might be experiencing during this time.

1. Acknowledge your emotions and how you’re feeling

It is normal to start to feel overwhelmed, worried or afraid when making big choices. Recognising these feelings as valid and not diminishing them will help you to manage them and to understand where the source of your stress might be coming from. Is it fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or external pressure from others? By pinpointing the cause, you can develop strategies to cope with it more effectively and to make the best decision for you.

2. Take a break

Slow everything down and take time to gather any information you need to make your decision. Resist the urge to make an impulsive choice. Instead, take a moment to pause and breathe deeply. Focusing on your breath can help calm your nervous system, enabling you to think more clearly and make better decisions. Deep breathing is one technique which can help with this, and it can be done anytime and anywhere.

3. Break the decision down into smaller parts

Breaking down a complex problem into smaller parts, based on your personal priorities, can make it easier to make a decision. To do this, making a list can be helpful. For example, what are your passions, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are the potential career paths, what are your values and goals, what are the financial or practical considerations? Breaking the decision down to its components can allow you to compare available choices more effectively.

4. Seek support and share the burden with others

Don't hesitate to seek support from trusted friends or family. Talking about your decision-making process can provide valuable insights and reduce the burden of making the decision alone.

5. Be kind to yourself

Acknowledge that decision making is inherently challenging. Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer to a friend facing a difficult decision. This is an exciting time and only you will know the correct decision for yourself, so trust your instincts.

By Dr Eimear Lee
Senior Lecturer in Psychology

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The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.