Academic Stress: Dealing with Tests and Lecture-laden Weeks

“Monday is just around the corner, and I have lectures fixed from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm from Monday to Thursday. Classes are even the least of my concerns. I have tests and assignments lined up this week, and my handouts are so bulky that it would probably take me a whole day to cover one topic,” Maryam said, looking stressed out and tired.

It’s the 9th week of lectures when school gets intense with many CAs (Continuous Assessment). And in an institution where 75% attendance is compulsory to pass a course, skipping classes is not an option.

Thus, in the face of academic stress, Maryam, like many other students, struggles with her mental health.

Stress is part and parcel of human lives. It is a natural feeling of not keeping up with specific emotional and physical pressure or demands. Pressure can arise from work, school, relationships, financial problems, health challenges, and other situations.

Although the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies stress into either acute or chronic, academic tension is another kind of stressor that can be acute and chronic.

Academic stress is the feeling of not being able to cope with the academic-related demands that exceed the adaptive capabilities of students.

According to research, most students’ stress originates from school activities and pressure, including taking challenging courses, participating in extracurricular activities, studying and acing tests and exams, homework and deadlines, poor time management, financial debt, and congested lectures timetable.

Research further shows that academic stress leads to reduced vigour and a higher likelihood of developing anxiety or depression. Other effects may include anger, concentration issues, fatigue, unbalanced diet, irritability, restlessness and sadness, just like Maryam feels.

All these effects often affect students’ academic performance, which mostly takes a significant toll on their health, happiness, and grades ultimately.

So how do Maryam and every other student overcome or deal with academic stress?

Although academic stress is unavoidable as students, it can be managed and controlled in the following ways:

Healthy Diet: One of the ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle as a student is to maintain a healthy diet. A balanced diet boosts brainpower and mental energy, as a happy stomach begets a happy person.
Endeavour to take your breakfast before attending lectures or going for tests; even if it is a cup of tea, make sure you do not begin your day on an empty stomach. You could also keep fruits in your bags lest you don’t make it through lunch.

Adequate Sleep: Sleep deprivation is one of the examples and causes of academic stress. Students are notorious for sleeping late because of packed schedules or misplaced priorities, which often lead to fatigue and migraine, amongst others. As a student, getting enough sleep makes you more productive and creative in class. Endeavour to sleep for at least 8 hours at night and take naps when you need them. Manage your schedules and devote enough time to sleeping before lectures and tests.

Regular Exercise: A healthy body helps the mind. Exercise is one of the most effective ways of dealing with stress. While there might not be time to engage in full-fledged exercising, one can feature them in schedules. Walking or jogging to class, reviewing courses with friends while strolling across the campus, or doing sit-ups while cramming will do the magic.

Good Music: Research shows that music has many cognitive benefits that can help relieve stress and stimulate your mind as the situation warrants. Listening to your favourite music while relaxing can help you deal with stress as a student. While everyone has a different taste in music, classical music is preferable when you need to calm down.

Effective Planning: As students, it is crucial to plan out your schedules as ‘he who fails to plan, plans to fail’. Write out your tasks and follow them diligently. Organize your works and do not procrastinate. Make sure you attend lectures punctually and avoid lateness.

Breathing in-and-out Therapy: Another relief mechanism that can be used before tests or at other times when you’re stressed is the breathing exercise. You can carry out the simple practice of taking long and deep breaths anywhere and everywhere to combat overwhelming stress or anxiety.

It is also important to hang out with supportive people who can bring good vibes and values to you and your academic pursuit. Carve out your hobby time after lectures, and be positive always.

Remember, your mental health is also your wealth. Keep your dealings healthy!

NB: The names used are fictional.

Please drop your questions in our comment section and we’ll address them in the next edition.


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