Being a student can be stressful! And when things don’t go your way, it can be even more difficult to cope with that stress. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that things can change overnight and our ability to adapt can make all the difference to how we do in our studies and our personal lives.

Building your personal resilience – or your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties – is the best way to prepare yourself for unexpected change, disappointments and heightened times of stress. It will also help you do even better during “normal” times, when good wellness habits can make the difference between good and great results.

To help you develop good wellness practices and develop your resilience, here are 5 practical tips you can implement in your life right now.

  1. Make and maintain connections

A strong social network is important to human beings. In fact, the World Health Organisation recognizes social relationships as an important determinant of health throughout our lives.

To build your network – especially if you’re studying away from home – try joining a student association or two, forming study groups with classmates or joining a varsity sports club. If you’re not going to class on campus yet because of the pandemic, get in touch with your student counselling services, career centre, or even your lecturers via email to see if they can help you find connections digitally.

And don’t forget to nurture your existing relationships! Make time for your friends and family, especially those people you can confide in and be yourself around.

  1. Take care of yourself

Self-care and self-love are big topics of discussion on social media and all over the internet. But when we get busy – working on a tough assignment or studying for exams – it’s easy to let our good self-care habits slide because “there’s just too much to do!”

Doing this too often can make it more and more difficult to handle pressure, and can lead to burnout. So, at a minimum, take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating regular healthy meals and doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (such as walking) a week.

You’d be surprised at the difference it makes to your wellbeing when you make a healthy sandwich to take with you for lunch instead of grabbing McDonalds between classes. Or take a 20 minute walk every day instead of letting yourself go down a YouTube rabbit hole the moment you get home. This kind of self-care is even more important when you’re not going onto campus. It’s easy to get so drawn into to your work that forget to stretch your legs, or make a point of eating healthily, when you don’t have to leave home.

  1. Say no to drama

When things go wrong – like failing an exam or breaking up with a significant other – it can feel like the end of the world as you know it. It’s important to try to keep things in perspective and maintain a positive outlook.

Importantly, though, positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes. It means understanding that setbacks are temporary and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face.

So, acknowledge that you feel hurt, disappointed or angry. Have a cry, or a catch up with friends, to help process those feelings. But then look for the silver lining, or resolve to try again, and move on. It’s also helpful to surround yourself with people who will help you find the bright side, rather than people who will amplify the negativity to make things seem worse than they are.

  1. Work on your problem-solving skills

Research suggests that people who can come up with solutions to a problem are better able to cope when things go wrong than those who can’t. Makes sense, right? If you can see a way to improve a situation, it’s much less stressful and gives you a sense of being in control of what happens next. There’s something you can do about it.

Fortunately, there’s lots of fun ways to develop your problem-solving abilities during good times. Try one of the top rated brain training apps for adults like Einstein’s Riddle Logic Puzzles. Host a Murder Mystery Party or a virtual games night.

Or, if you find yourself facing a problem IRL and you’re not sure how to resolve it, try practising some more serious problem-solving strategies. Things like breaking challenges down into smaller parts, making a list, table or diagram to plot out the steps you need to take or looking for more information about the issue are all good strategies to practice.

  1. Be kind

If you spoke to a friend the way you speak to yourself when you make a mistake, would that person still be your friend? If the answer to that is yes, well done! You’re probably already treating yourself with kindness.

If not, try to work on encouraging yourself, nurturing a positive view of yourself and your capabilities, and treating yourself with respect. Look out for opportunities for self-discovery and growth, but don’t beat yourself up for mistakes or failures. These are part of life. When they happen (and I do mean when), ask yourself what you can learn, and take a moment to give yourself a little credit for what you did do well.

The same goes for the people around you. Try to remember that everyone has something going on and their bad mood probably doesn’t have anything to do with you. Is a classmate behind on their part of your joint assignment? Ask them what’s going on rather than assuming they’re lazy or, worse, trying to hurt you.