Preventing & managing stress

Science and Technology (ST) wants to be a good and healthy workplace for all employees and students.

ST sees stress as a shared challenge and a joint responsibility. Therefore, we want to ensure that everyone actively takes responsibility for promoting well-being and preventing stress in their daily lives.

Stress is a physical and psychological reaction to overload. Stress is not always unhealthy. Basically, you can talk about stress as being in the well-being, the risk and the danger zone:


Well-being zone

Even when we are thriving and feeling well, it is natural to experience brief periods of stress. As long as the stress is temporary, it is an appropriate reaction that helps us to overcome strain.

What you can do to promote well-being and prevent stress

PhD student

  • Talk to your supervisor(s) about matching expectations, both when initiating your PhD project and continuously during your PhD programme. Read more about matching expectations here.
  • Create an overview and a timetable for your PhD project. Note that GSST offers courses in how to plan and manage a PhD project. For more info, see our page with transferable skills courses.
  • Talk to your PhD supervisor(s) regularly about how you are coping with your project, and try to address potential problems early on, or even before they arise. 
  • Remember to keep in touch with your PhD supervisor(s) even though one of you may be abroad. For example, you could plan to have weekly Skype meetings to ensure progress in the project and to make sure that your expectations are still aligned. 
  • Remember that it is your PhD project. It is therefore important that you take active responsibility by talking to your supervisor if specific demands/assignments are unreasonable or too demanding. Discuss demands and deadlines on a regular basis.
  • Prioritize and schedule activities that give you energy, e.g. do your favourite sport, go out with friends, play your guitar, or whatever you like to do. Learn to relax e.g. by practising relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness.
  • Contribute to creating a positive and social culture at your department, for example by eating lunch with your colleagues, and participating in social activities and events.
  • Build and cultivate your social network in both your professional and private life. The "Associations" page has links to various associations such as the University International Club and the PhD and Postdoc activity group.
  • Take care of yourself and maintain a healthy lifestyle: eat healthily, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
  • Learn about stress and reactions to stress, and use this knowledge to prevent stress.

Supervisor(s)

  • Talk to your PhD student(s) about aligning expectations both when initiating their PhD project and regularly during the PhD programme. Read more about aligning expectations here.
  • Help your PhD student(s) create an overview and a timetable for their PhD project. Note that GSST offers courses in how to plan and manage a PhD project. For more info, see GSST’s page with transferable skills courses.
  • Talk to your PhD student(s) regularly about how they are coping with their project, and try to address potential problems early on, or even before they arise. See our guide to wellbeing and stress prevention dialogues here.
  • Remember to keep in touch with your PhD student(s) even though one of you may be abroad. For example, you could plan to have weekly Skype meetings to ensure progress in the project and to make sure that your expectations are still aligned.
  • Make sure that the PhD plan is regularly updated, and that work assignments are consistent with the time left on the PhD study programme.
  • Contribute to creating a positive and social culture at your department by eating lunch with colleagues and students, inviting your PhD student(s) to join you for coffee, or organising a team for the DHL run.
  • Learn about stress and reactions to stress, and use this knowledge to prevent stress among your PhD student(s).

Risk zone

Long periods of stress can trigger a number of physical and psychological symptoms that may have a negative impact on work capacity and health.

Detect and react to unhealthy stress

PhD student

  • Take symptoms seriously and react to them. Talk to someone in your social network who you trust and who you know can and will support and help you.
  • Try to identify what factors stress you, and what can be done (if possible) to ease them.
  • If possible, prioritize your work assignments. What is important, and what can wait? It is a good idea to do this together with your supervisor(s).
  • Talk to your PhD supervisor(s) and seek support regarding potential problems related to your project that could contribute to stress.  
  • Remember that it is your PhD project. It is therefore important that you take active responsibility by talking to your supervisor if specific demands/assignments are unreasonable or too demanding. Discuss demands and deadlines on a regular basis.
  • If your symptoms are persistent/severe, contact your doctor, AU’s psychological counselling service (see bullet below), GSST and your supervisor(s).
  • AU has an agreement with Dansk Krisekorps, a health advisory company, to provide psychological counselling for all AU employees. It is possible to receive psychological counselling in both Danish and English. Read more here.
  • Prioritize and schedule activities that can reduce stress and give you energy e.g. talking face-to face with someone in your social network, using relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness or practicing your favourite sport.
  • Take care of yourself and maintain a healthy lifestyle: eat healthily, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
  • Learn about stress and reactions to stress, and use this knowledge to prevent stress.
  • You can find more information about absence due to sickness here.

Supervisor(s)

  • Enter into dialogue with the PhD student. See our guide to wellbeing and stress prevention dialogues here.
  • Help the PhD student to identify what factors are causing the stress, and what can be done (if possible) to ease these.
  • Ask questions and help the PhD student to prioritize work assignments. What is important, and what can wait?
  • Talk to your PhD student(s) regularly about how they are coping with their project, and try to address potential problems early on, or even before they arise.
  • Remember to keep in touch with your PhD students(s) even though one of you may be abroad. For example, you could plan to have weekly Skype meetings to ensure progress in the project and to make sure that your expectations are still aligned. Read more about aligning expectations here.
  • If you are concerned, encourage the PhD student to talk to his/her doctor, and if necessary tell them about the University’s agreement with Dansk Krisekorps, a health advisory company, to provide psychological counselling for all AU employees. It is possible to receive psychological counselling in both Danish and English. Read more here.
  • Contact GSST, we will assist both the PhD student and you, and help to find the best solution.
  • Make sure that the PhD plan is regularly updated, and that the work assignments are consistent with the time left on the PhD study programme.
  • Learn about stress and reactions to stress, and use this knowledge to prevent stress.
  • You can find more information about absence due to sickness here.

Danger zone

If your stress is not reduced and a balance re-established, stress can have more serious consequences and constitute a genuine threat to both your health and your working capacity. Even though stress affects the individual, his or her surroundings play an important role. There are factors both in an employee’s private life and his or her working life that can either aggravate or help protect against stress.

Handling reduced working capacity and illness due to longterm stress

PhD student

  • If your symptoms are persistent/severe, contact your doctor, AU’s psychological counselling service (see bullet below), GSST and your supervisor(s).
  • AU has an agreement with Dansk Krisekorps, a health advisory company, to provide psychological counselling for all AU employees. It is possible to receive psychological counsellor in both Danish and English. Read more here.
  • Listen to the advice from your doctor and/or the psychological counsellor regarding full time/part time sick leave. You can find more information about absence due to sickness here.
  • Returning after sick leave, ask your doctor/or psychological counsellor for advice on continuing your PhD project and plan how you can start at a suitable pace.
  • Talk to your supervisor about the advice and get help to plan your work assignments in alignment with your doctor/counsellor’s advice.
  • Take care of yourself and your body. Prioritize and schedule activities that can reduce stress and give you energy, and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle: eat healthily, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
  • Use your social network to get support.

Supervisor(s)

  • Enter into dialogue with the PhD student. See our guide to well-being and stress prevention dialogues here.
  • If you are concerned, encourage the PhD student to talk to his/her doctor, and if necessary tell them about the University’s agreement with Dansk Krisekorps, a health advisory company, to provide psychological counselling for all AU employees. It is possible to receive psychological counselling in both Danish and English. Read more here.
  • Contact GSST, we can assist both the PhD student and you, and help to find the best solution.
  • If the PhD student is still at work, help him/her to prioritize work assignments. What is important, and what can wait?
  • Make sure that the PhD plan is regularly updated, and that the work assignments are consistent with the time left on the PhD study programme.
  • Learn about stress and reactions to stress. Read more here.
  • You can find more information about absence due to sickness here.
  • If the PhD student is on sick leave, fill in the “certificate of fitness for work” (in Danish: “Mulighedserklæring”). Read more here.
  • When the PhD student returns after a sick leave, it is a good idea to ask the PhD student what the doctor/psychological counsellor has advised in regards to how the PhD student should return to work, including suitable workload and pace. This is important information for you as a supervisor when you help the PhD student with prioritizing work assignments and offer support.
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