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How to beat stress and think clearly in clearing

Dr Trudi Edginton talks about what you can do help make the right decision

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As students across the country await their A-level results, elements of anxiety and stress may start to emerge while they make their decisions.

Choosing which university will be best suited for your degree studies and personal development as an undergraduate is not always a straightforward process as there are always a large number of factors which can influence your final choice.

Should you be guided by any of the league tables and university rankings? Do you want a university in a large city, close to home, or as far away as possible? Do you even want to study in this country, or are you thinking about following your friends?

Dr Trudi Edginton, Deputy Director of Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at City, University of London, previously changed careers and started a course as a mature student through clearing, so understands the pressures – as well as the opportunities – that the process presents.

Speaking to the Times Higher Education, Trudi said: “I know from experience that selecting the right career path, the right university, the right course, deciding whether to have a gap year and how to finance it, devising a realistic Plan B and worrying about what one’s friends will be doing can all play a part in the build-up of stress.”

Complex cognitive skills are required to process all of the available information in order to make the decision that will define your experience as a student, and effective decision-making is based on gathering as much information as possible, weighing up all of the pros and cons, regulating emotional responses, and putting a plan B - and maybe even a plan C or D - into place.

Managing the uncertainty and coping with any unexpected setbacks is essential to reduce anxiety and stress and to limit the impact of negative emotion and perceptions on your ability to think clearly.

Here are some top tips for managing stress during clearing:

  • Allow time to process emotion
  • Talk about feelings with a good listener
  • Focus on present moment awareness with the help of ‘Mindfulness’ interventions
  • Understand the impact of stress on thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations
  • Restructure negative perceptions and reframe approach to setbacks
  • Focus on flexibility, determination, and self-compassion
  • Sufficient sleep, good nutrition, and exercise
  • Create a healthy work-life balance

Speaking to the THE and The Independent, Trudi said: “As a clinical psychologist and mindfulness teacher who specialises in cognitive neuroscience, I often work with people who are experiencing a wide range of symptoms associated with stress-related conditions. One of the most effective stress management techniques that my research focuses on is the understanding of the biological and psychological mechanisms that contribute to stress, including the impact of negative thoughts on our bodily sensations, feelings and the way we respond.

“Noticing these automatic negative thoughts and the effects that they can have on emotions and bodily sensations is key to interrupting these cycles and managing the stress. Taking deep breaths to calm the sensations in the body and acknowledging that these are natural stress responses that will soon pass can be a powerful way of coping with the physical discomfort.

“Ultimately, knowing whether you made the right choice may not be determined by your academic success, university rankings, geography, or a memorable social life, but rather by your ability to manage stress and uncertainty with awareness, flexibility and, resilience.”

Find out more about clearing at City

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