It’s no secret that students of UK schools, colleges and universities are under more pressure than ever before. The educational industry now must report back on how students are progressing at every level – and you likely feel as though you’ve never faced more exams, tests and assessments.
Against this backdrop of continual pressure, is the rise and rise of social media – with young lives now lived out on online platforms it seems there’s nowhere to hide from the burden to achieve.
Putting some figures to the picture
“96% of school students feel anxious about exam revisions, whilst 59% feel pressure from parents to achieve and 64% report having received no support to deal with exams”
“10% of university students now activity seek help with stress from university professionals”
“20% of students consider themselves to have mental health issues, whilst 13% have reported suicidal thoughts”
Perhaps most shocking of all, however, has been the concern to emerge from primary schools.
“In the past 20 years, mental health problems have got worse, they are being shown in younger children and they are getting more complex”.
It then seems that today stress is a part of academic life right from the earliest of days. Perhaps it’s then little wonder that research has found that stress at school is the most significant contributor to depression, self-harm and attempted suicide amongst young people (Sharp 2013).
Stress: It’s actually useful (honestly)
Stress is an age old biological process – hailing from the earliest of mankind, when the release of adrenaline it enables was an essential for survival (think running away from that massive woolly mammoth).
Today however modern life is of course wholly different. Yet when stress is experienced in short bursts and at relevant times, it can help you in overcoming challenges – focusing your mind, improving reaction times and, vitally, enhancing your performance (which has got to be a good thing come GCSE exam day, right?).
So let’s take a look at seven ways in which you can manage your stress – for that all important boost when you need it, and not when you don’t.
Seven tips for managing stress
1. Take a break
When revising or working it’s important to take a break – 20 minutes at least every two hours should do the trick (and try to escape to get some fresh air – rather than staying at your desk).
2. Grab some exercise
Exercise, even when experienced once a week, is proven to reduce stress. More recent research in this area has found that, whilst 30 minutes of walking a day helps, intense workouts are better at releasing those feel good hormones – endorphins.
3. Catch some Zzzz’s (and do the unheard of – logoff Facebook)
A twenty minute cat nap can work wonders for productivity, whilst also helping to re-frame your mind in order to tackle any study challenges that may currently feel impossible. However it’s vital that you remove social media from the equation (as it’s been linked to disturbed sleep and rest that’s not so effective) – so turn off the tech and indulge in a little lid rest.
4. Play with Fido
Research has also shown that spending a little time with your pet can help beat stress – most specifically, a recent study found that stroking a dog for even a couple of minutes can release that all-important feel good chemicals.
5. Put your music on
Music can boost the positive outcomes of exercise and, for some, it’s also an aid for studying.
6. Re-think and re-balance to become that little bit more positive
There’s no use crying over spilt milk – this may well be one of the most over used clichés in the history of bad clichés, yet it is completely relevant when it comes to stress. If you’ve missed a deadline, messed up on the latest exam or face a re-write of an assignment, try to forget about the negative, and instead re-frame it as a lesson learned and a mistake that you can avoid in the future.
7. Speak to someone
For all the tips in the world, you face pressures that aren’t to be underestimated. So, above all else, if you’re struggling to cope with exams, or any other element of life, it’s important to speak to someone. Friends can be a great place to start, but teachers can have the tools, techniques and knowledge to help you in managing your stress effectively.