~ Eashani sharma
We are all familiar with the pre exam jitters, the stress of meeting deadlines, the performance pressure we feel when writing the final answer. Now adding to the uncertainty that the global pandemic has brought along, stress among students has been off the charts. There is no comfort of familiarity in these changing times, the concept of online examinations and navigating through the technological sphere has been daunting on the bravest of us.
Did you know, every hour, a student in India takes their life. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports recorded 28 suicides everyday. Suicide rate is highest in the 15-29 age group. A study found the mental health literacy of adolescents in India to be so low, that only 29.04% could identify depression and 1.31% could recognize psychosis. Where are we failing? Or is it the established system that is failing us? This disturbing issue and the staggering statistics at hand require immediate attention, addressal, sensitivity and understanding.
Causes of stress
Common causes of stress among students are examinations, fear of failure, expectations, poor time management, changes, peer pressure, and competitive exams. Exams and academic performance have been put on such a pedestal that the fear of not being good enough keeps many of us from doing our best and then getting the inferiority complex accompanies this fear. Expectations from self, parents, family can sometimes get to the best of us. It creates undue mental stress and results in mental exhaustion. Young minds seeking acceptance in the society is not a new concept, but often the pressure to be a part of something can cause both positive and negative results. The bane of every student, competitive exams have become one of the biggest stressors in a student’s life. The cutthroat competition, fear of failure, expectations, irregular sleeping patterns, low acceptance rates have wreaked havoc in young lives.
Symptoms of stress
Stress can affect each person differently. It usually manifests itself through physical, emotional, behavioural or cognitive means. The symptoms vary from person to person and situation to situation. It can look like sweating, stomach aches, headaches, muscle tension in the body, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, irritation, impatience, anxiety, panic, social withdrawal, confusion, memory loss, irregular sleeping habits, drastic changes in personality, eating habits and the outlook on life.
Management of stress
1. Look after yourself - be kind to yourself, get your eating habits and sleep schedule in order. Eat well and exercise. Practice mindfulness.
2. Express – talk to your friends, family or confidantes. Have a moment to yourself and reflect. Express yourself through means that best suits you, practice writing in a journal or making art, if singing or dancing befits you, then sing and dance. Play sports or hit the gym, the options are unlimited. Find your outlet.
3. Face it – face what is bothering you. Putting off things for the last moment increases the pressure of deadlines. Running away from the things that bother us only adds to the stress of its impending arrival. Facing your challenges will bring clarity. Try not to procrastinate.
4. Know your limits - However much we may plan, life runs its own course. Set realistic expectations for yourself, don’t let the expectations of your well wishers be the ultimate goal of your life. Do what feels right. Recreation is as important as work.
5. Talk to an expert – if at any time you feel that things are slipping out of your hands and you can’t cope, do not hesitate to reach out to an expert. Mental health is as important as physical health, and it is important to care for your mind, just like you take care of your body.
This pandemic has tested a lot of things that had previously been taken for granted. Uncertainty, power failures, internet connectivity issues, lack of resources, fear for one’s health has already meddled with everybody’s peace of mind. The teachers have also struggled while adjusting to the new method of teaching online. The role of teachers has a whole new meaning and the technological sphere has not only been daunting, but in many ways limiting for them. But due to increasing accessibility, more people have access to new materials or courses online.
The New Education Policy was announced on July 31, 2020. Even though it is under a lot of scrutiny, it has revamped the whole education system of India. It plans to take away the stress involved with examinations and decentralising the whole system to make it more accessible.
Mental health awareness
Poor mental health can be the worst enemy of mankind. The need for people to be aware of mental health is indispensable. The stigma that surrounds this issue also calls for attention, the need for a change in the general attitude. We need to approach this topic with sensitive sensibility, organising sensitization programs starting at school level, making it compulsory for each and every school to appoint a certified counselor who can help many students cope better with changes. Creation of free and open discussion in classrooms would not only help us battle the stigma, it would inculcate curiosity among the young minds.
At SKCF we teach our young minds while focusing on their holistic development. Along with quality education, we ensure active participation in extracurricular activities. Fun and learning are not very different, if used in correct proportions. We have organised educational picnics to places like Aeroplanet Dwarka, Mughal Gardens, India Gate among others. Every sunday is an activity day. We play, we draw, we meditate, we craft, we dance, and most importantly, we grow.
Even the pandemic could not stop the power of our commitment. No stone was left unturned in ensuring that those willing to learn, could still do it. We also went online for follow up with academics. We carried out donation drives, provided internet packs, sorted the students into a new allotment system, to ensure that proper dissemination of information and knowledge took place. Our teachers and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make sure that nothing stops the students from receiving the education they deserve.
Stress has its own set of pros and cons, but one must reflect on ways to reduce academic stress before it gets the best of our youth. Changes can be made on individual, familia and school level. Stress management could be incorporated as an active part of the curriculum. The purpose of education is empowerment, it should not become a burden on anyone.
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