Like every sector, the education sector has also been severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic crisis. Students especially have been affected in many aspects - classes have gone virtual, many were forced to return home, and overall, the student community is missing the live education experience - of being on campus amidst peers and teachers. Whether in school or college, students are probably feeling anxious, sad and uncertain. These feelings are normal, and there are ways to lessen your stress.
There are a number of common reactions to stressful circumstances such as these, including:
Behavioral - these could involve avoiding or escaping from the situation, or a change in appetite or an inability to concentrate.
Physical - you may experience an increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, headaches, butterflies and over-breathing.
Psychological - stress can lead to fear, panic and the feeling that something bad is going to happen.
Here are a few ways to deal with the stress:
1. Talk to someone about your feelings
We all know that isolation can have an extremely negative impact on happiness, and accepting that you need help and talking to someone is often the first step to feeling better. Start off by speaking to your friends and family - they know you best and care about you the most. What's more, studies suggest that socialising with a friend just once a week can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood as much as therapy or counseling.
By talking to other students in your course you will probably find that you’re not alone. This can help put things in perspective. Ask them what techniques they use to manage stress.
Alternatively, make an appointment with your student wellbeing service. The majority of institutions have these and they should be your first port of call if you're worried, stressed or upset about anything. They'll provide a listening ear and can signpost you to specialist services who can offer specific support if needed
While wellbeing services don't provide counseling support, most universities offer free counseling and support groups. Discover what support is available at your university or college. You can access dozens of articles and videos, written by expert clinicians and students, to help you through the challenges of student life.
Exercise is a proven and recommended stress reliever because it reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins. This not only can help manage stress but research indicates a clear correlation between physical activity and academic performance.
For example, students who were physically active were 20% more likely to earn an A in Math or English, according to a large 2006 study. And, for another study, students with a GPA higher than 3.5 were three times more likely to be physically active than their counterparts with a lower GPA. This doesn’t necessarily mean exercise leads to better academic performance, but there does seem to be a clear link between the two
For people 6-17 years of age, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day. To help relieve stress throughout the day, students could split those 60 minutes up into several 10-15 minutes sessions in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
3. Positive exercises
Did you know that optimists actually experience better circumstances, in part, because their way of thinking helps to create better circumstances in their lives? It’s very much true. The habit of optimism and positive thinking can bring better health, better relationships, and, yes, better grades.
You can learn how to train your brain for more positive self-talk and a brighter future with affirmations and other tools for optimism. As a student, you can also learn the limitations to affirmations and the caveats of positive thinking so you aren't working against yourself.
4. Go outdoors
Try to spend time in nature as numerous studies have shown it has a positive effect on mental health. By spending just 20 minutes connecting with nature, you can lower your stress hormone levels. Time spent in nature also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones. Take Scandinavians as an example with their cultural tradition of “open air life”: despite freezing temperatures, they dress for the weather and get outside as they are aware of the positive impact on mental health (https://www.mhe-sme.org). Although the prospect might be daunting, once you are outside it feels better than you expected. With the winter months approaching, an alternative could be adding green elements (i.e. plants and flowers) to your place – simply having a plant on your work desk can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mental health in the long term.