Stress Less

It's important to take care of your mental health and wellbeing, especially when it gets to the pointy end of the semester. Take some time out of your study schedule to relax. Learn some tips, tricks, and tactics to help you stress less in the lead up to exams and major assignment submissions by reading the info below.

What's Happening on Campus?

We're coming to you to make it easier to stress less!

From 20 May to 5 June, our Stress Less Van will be driving to multiple locations around the Callaghan and Newcastle City campuses bringing activities, food and strategies to help you cope with and manage stress in the lead up to exams.

Keep your eye out for the van, you never know where it will pop up bringing freebies and good vibes your way!

Academic Tips and Tricks


Start study preparation well in advance  – six weeks is optimal.


Download exam prep from Blackboard and gather anything you’ve printed out.


Check what type of exams you have: multiple choice, open book  or long answer.


Create your Personalised Study Plan with guidance from Student Advisors – email to make an appointment.


Prioritise your hardest subjects – allocate them more time.


Use short breaks – if you travel on a bus or train, use this time.


Work out what works for you – reading out loud? Rewriting notes in your own words?


Stay well-hydrated with water – particularly if you’ve upped caffeine intake.


Take a break after 60 minutes – stretch, walk around and get refreshed.

#10Just do it. Don’t procrastinate – sit down, set a timer and  start studying!

Most injuries come from little things being performed incorrectly for a long time so small changes make a big difference:

  • Your monitor should be at eye level, an arm’s length directly in front of you.
  • If you're using a laptop, the top of the screen should be just below eye level and you should be able to see the screen without bending your neck. A separate keyboard and mouse is best.
  • Your desk should be high enough so your legs fit underneath and you don’t have to lean for the mouse or pens.
  • Your keyboard should be straight on the desk with the B key in line with the centre of your body.
  • Your mouse within easy reach of the side of your keyboard.
  • When sitting in your chair, your wrists should be the same height or slightly below your elbows.
  • Put information in your own words – summarise, outline. Can you explain the idea to someone else?
  • Organise information into chunks or sets. Recall mind-maps and diagrams, turn them into paragraphs
  • Show relationships by using diagrams, flow charts, mind-maps
  • Use associations like colour coding, drawings or numbers to make links
  • Use similarities and differences tables
  • Devise practice questions and plan answers for them
  • Studying several subjects together
  • Copying, rather than using your own words
  • Not having material organised into logical categories
  • No regular revision
  • Cramming
  • Check your exam time, room number and seat allocation
  • Study until dinner then sit down to a good meal (no alcohol)
  • After dinner read over your summaries. Minimise TV and screen time (yes, even phones)
  • Relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep
  • Eat a good breakfast high in carbs before a morning exam or light lunch before an afternoon exam
  • Allow at least one hour to read your summaries and any rote learning
  • Leave earlier than usual in case of transport delays
  • Wear a watch to keep track of time during the exam
  • Read the summaries of your summaries to help focus your thoughts
  • Stay away from other people - they may distract you
  • Conversations about possible content are not constructive

Get help from fellow students who have succeeded in your course with our Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS).

1 hour pass study = 3 hours solo study

Revision Sessions will commence in Week 13  - check the website for the timetable.

  • Prepared exam questions
  • Multiple choice exams
  • Unseen exam questions
  • Weeks 11 and 12 and weekends of weeks 12 and 13
  • 15 workshops each week plus compressed (combo of all three)
  • Workshops on weekends.

Go to the UON website and follow the links:

Current Students > Learning > Study Skills > Workshops > Study Skills, then register online.

Email and a staff member will contact you to talk over your needs.

Mental Health and Mindfulness Tricks

You should make checking in with your 'inner self' a regular occurrence to keep you on track. Here are some ways to look after your mental wellbeing.

Physical exercise benefits areas of your brain involved in memory and learning through both direct and indirect means. It comes from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors – chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

Many studies also suggest that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.

“… engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.” (Dr McGinnis, Harvard Medical School)

Good sleep is good for your brain. Neurons don’t divide like other cells – they last a lifetime and repair themselves during sleep. Most of our knowledge is processed, consolidated and stored into long term memory during sleep.

Simply talking with someone daily will improve your brain’s functioning while more meaningful interactions where you challenge and discuss ideas helps your brain stay sharp, make judgments, and anticipate and solve problems.

The hippocampus, central to learning and memory, is highly sensitive to stress hormones. The brain’s sensitivity also means it responds well to stress strategies – relaxation, exercise, good social relationships and adequate sleep.

Recreational drugs can have a hugely disruptive impact on your brain depending on the substance, its purity, the amount and frequency of use. Serious, permanent damage to your brain can result.

Healthy diet plays a big part in brain health.

Good Choices:
  • Glucose is brain fuel, so we need to keep things balanced by having good sources of carbohydrate while avoiding sugar highs. Choose low GI whole foods and don’t skip breakfast as it reduces your concentration, reaction times, mood and memory.
  • Protein is essential as a source of amino acids, the building blocks for neurotransmitters which control memory, learning, attention, cognition and mood. Choose moderate amounts of lean meat, fish and poultry, eggs, legumes, tofu and dairy.
  • Fruit and vegetables contain anti-oxidants which help neutralise free radicals that can damage neurons. Other important brain nutrients found in fruit and vegetables include Vitamins A, C and E, Folate, Iron and Zinc.
Not So Good:
  • High intakes of processed sugar and fats provide excessive kilojoules for very little nutrition. Metabolically they can cause massive highs and lows in blood sugar which will negatively affect concentration and mood
  • Alcohol is a drug and while small amounts can help us relax, excessive use increases stress levels, disrupts sleep, and impacts on attention, memory and recall abilities
  • Caffeine in small amounts can help us increase attention and focus but high levels will have negative effects by increasing your experience of stress, disrupting sleep patterns, and increasing irritability. Enjoy a morning coffee with a good breakfast or as a study break, but avoid highly caffeinated soft drinks that will bombard your brain with sugar as well as caffeine.

Simple lifestyle choices will enhance your brain’s health and your academic performance.

Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to sleep, but there are simple things you can do.


Make your bedroom quiet and comfortable – a cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended. If early morning light or if noise bothers you, wear a sleep mask and use earplugs.


Don’t take naps. If you really can’t make it through the day, nap for less than 1 hour, before 3pm.


Beds are for sleeping and sex – don’t watch TV, do work or read in bed. Going to bed becomes a cue it’s time to sleep.


Avoid using your phone or laptop before trying to sleep.  The light from the screen will disrupt the Melatonin (the chemical in your brain which controls sleep/wake cycles) process. Use low wattage/dim lighting or lamps in the evening.


No caffeine (tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks), nicotine or alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bed – caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and stop you falling asleep. Alcohol results in fragmented unrestful sleep.


No exercise four hours before bed – exercise helps you sleep, but timing  is key. Morning or  early afternoon is best.


Create a regular sleep cycle – get up and go to bed the same time every day (even on weekends).


Develop sleep rituals before bed – these become cues it’s time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, have a cup of caffeine free tea or do relaxation exercises. A hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime can help too.


A light snack before bed - if you’re too empty (or too full) it interferes with sleep. Dairy products are a great choice as they contain tryptophan (a natural sleep inducer)…so a warm milk really can help you sleep!


If you can’t sleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy.  No bright lights while you are up - light cues the brain it’s time to wake up.

  • Newcastle Campuses: 4921 6622
  • Central Coast Campus: 4348 4060
  • Port Macquarie Campus: 6581 6200
  • Sydney Campus: 8262 6413

Online counselling support is available for all students. Email to book your appointment.

Drop-in Skype sessions (during semester) - no appointment necessary:

  • Monday 1pm to 2pm
  • Tuesday 8pm to 9pm
  • Wednesday 3.30pm to 4.30pm
  • Thursday 2.30pm to 3.30pm + 8pm to 9pm
  • Friday 9am to 10am

Counselling blog:

Exercise reduces our bodies’ stress reaction – a brisk walk aids concentration and increased blood flow assists memory. More demanding physical exertion is vital 3 to 4 times a week.

Good sleep supports memory and concentration, and 6 to 8 hours sleep is ideal. A “cat nap” during intense study periods, meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques help memory and concentration.

The better the fuel you put in, the better your performance.  A balanced diet includes protein foods, grains, dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Anxious people take quick shallow breaths, usually high in the chest, which cause physiological reactions which in turn reduces oxygen to the brain and causes stress and fuzzy thinking, so...slow down your breathing (down to 10 to 14 breaths/minute). Breathe slowly and deeply; breathe in for three seconds, then out for three seconds; focus on pushing your diaphragm down and the abdomen out with each breath in…don’t lift your shoulders.

The UON Counselling website has reviewed and recommended app meditations for you to download: