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How to manage stress during your MBA

Stress is a regular part of studying, particularly while doing a degree as challenging as an MBA. Stress can be the result of a variety of experiences and it’s a fallacy that stress can only happen when you are doing something difficult or less enjoyable such as exams.

Whether you are revising, chasing deadlines or travelling the world having new and exciting experiences, stress can come any time we over-schedule ourselves or put extra demands on our time and energy. At AMBS, we have many resources to help combat stress and several of our academics have made researching health and wellbeing their life’s work.

1. Schedule and commit to true downtime

You wouldn’t skip a meeting with a client or a professor but for many of us, the time we schedule just for ourselves can be very easily shifted. Challenge yourself to put time off in your calendar and stick to it as if it were an important meeting. We all have different needs when it comes to the amount of downtime that we need. Whether you are an introvert who needs a lot of quiet time to recharge or an extrovert who gets their energy around others, you will likely need to adjust depending on how you feel. Check-in with yourself at the end of each week, be honest about how your time management made you feel and make adjustments for the week ahead.

2. Eat, drink and exercise

It can be easy to neglect your basic needs when you are stressed. Being so busy you forget to fuel your body can be a result of difficult or even good experiences, so take time to regularly check in with yourself and ask when you last ate, drank water or moved your body. The university has many opportunities for students to find events such as yoga or other workout classes. Even taking a break to dance to your favourite song or take a brisk walk around the block can help your mind reset a bit. 

3. Find community

At our most basic, we are primates who need a community to feel supported. Whether it’s a sports team, a study group or simply several friends who you know you can count on, we thrive when we are in relationships. Don’t neglect your time with your friends because when things get hard, that’s who is there for you. Again, committing to time with your friends as if it were a meeting with a client or an important exam is the key to making sure you have that social support. Even if it’s just 15 minutes for coffee at one of the many great cafes on campus during which you commit to not check your phones or do work, be there for your friends and they will be there for you to help combat the effects of stress. The MBA Student Council hosts socials and cultural evenings for students and these provide excellent opportunities to support your social wellbeing.

4. Work smarter

It’s often tempting to keep yourself busy all the time, after all, you are doing your MBA and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All of that is true, but remember that working more does not mean working better. A handful of focused hours during which you are well-rested, fed and not distracted are more valuable than a 12-hour study or work bender during which you are unfocused and drained. Purna Lahiri, a Full-time MBA candidate shared her strategy for not becoming overwhelmed trying to do too many tasks at once. 

"Living a balanced life on the MBA is a struggle, you want to participate in everything but you also want to have a good personal life. I like to be centred and focused and there are a lot of distractions. I am a one task person and I like to perfect the task in hand so I realised that I won’t do everything justice doing a million things at once. After the first term, I stripped back and made my work-life balance more manageable. I am lucky enough to have my husband in Manchester and go back home to him, but I want to keep a balance between my home life and the MBA. It is really important to live a life, some of us live but we lose steam. I like to try and be in the moment at all points of time. Most people are either anticipating the future or reflecting on the past but I think we should maximise the moment for what it is. I like to be rooted and centred at every point of time that comes around."

5. Cultivate mindfulness

Contrary to what trends might suggest, mindfulness is not the magic bullet that will allow you to overwork yourself with no consequences but it is important for a healthy, balanced life. Mindfulness is merely the practice of being aware of the moment you are living in, of observing your body and your mind and your emotions without judgement. It’s nearly impossible to understand what you need to manage your stress if you don’t check-in with yourself and observe exactly how you are feeling in any given moment. Stress is often the result of thinking about the past or the future- work you have to catch up on or a deadline that is looming. To borrow a concept from Zen, neither the past nor the future is real. They exist in the realm of memory and imagination respectively and all that you can be sure of is the present moment. Sound interesting? The University of Manchester’s counselling service has a full schedule of workshops to help you cultivate mindfulness and good habits.

Interested in an MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School? Learn more here >>