Introduction: As students, many of us have likely experienced some form of stress and it seems to be rising alarmingly. According to Statistics Canada, approximately one out of four Canadians 15 and older have experienced significant student stress at its peak. With increasing number of individuals admitting that they have experienced stress at some point in their student lives, it is imperative to be aware of the manifestations of stress, the associated health risks of prolonged stress and coping methods to prevent this from becoming a societal problem at large.
Causes: Most commonly student stress may be caused by perceived overload of school work, peer pressure, and unfavourable family/home or social life.
Manifestations/Symptoms: Student stress can be recognised by a variety of symptoms. These may include, but are not limited to:
Low energy, Depression, Irritability
Diarrhea, constipation, and nausea (Irritable Bowel)
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Negative Outcomes: According to the American Psychology Association, if students especially between the Grades 9-12 do not learn how to properly manage their stress, serious long term implications can be expected. Stress can be a cause for a multitude of chronic psychological and physical disorders including: chronic depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, hypertension, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders. Students need to be aware that even though they may not feel stressed, if they are feeling the symptoms described they are likely suffering from. It is important to recognize when one is stressed, in order to increase the ability to cope and prevent negative outcomes.
Management/Methods of Coping: Self-awareness is very important for the management and application of coping mechanisms to become effective. Every individual has their personal requirements and necessities to regard dealing with stress. Perhaps one can try to counter their negative energy generated by stress, towards something mentally positive, such as engaging in a sport or physical activity (eg. jogging, swimming, tennis, fitness training), or a creative activity (eg. writing, painting, music etc.). As long as you believe an activity harnesses the capability to relieve stress, it is valid.
Solving Issues: Students must understand that their mental health is a top priority over school work, which is why it is important for students to attempt to recognize the issues in their life that cause stress, and work towards refining them. Stress and mental health go hand-in-hand, and often we are reluctant to ask for help when we need it. Chances are that you have members in your peer group who face the same issues that you do, and there is a possibility of working together to eliminate those issues. Also, one can share their methods of coping that they deem effective with other students, in order to communalize ways of helping one-another.
External Support and Help: Sometimes, friends and family can only be helpful to a certain extent, which is an indicator of where one must take the initiative of acquiring external help. This could be ranging from an in-person licensed therapist, family doctor to an online/telephone based resource. Several resources can be found online, including the KidsHelpPhone, a Canada-wide based help system which offers both help over the telephone, and on the internet.
Finally, below is a summary of useful coping mechanisms and help resources:
Physical Exercise (Sports, Fitness, etc.)
Creative Activities (Reading, Writing, Music, Art)
Acquiring advice/help from peers, friends, and family
Help from licensed therapist/psychologist, family doctor
KidsHelpPhone.ca - 1-800-668-6868
Canadian Mental Health Hotline - 1-866-531-2600
In conclusion, student stress is an important growing problem, and to some extent, a crisis. However, by understanding its manifestations via self-awareness and taking positive action on your own or with the help of others, it can be managed successfully and thereby prevent long term negative outcomes for oneself and the student community at large. Good Luck!