Alleviating the stress of assessment blocks and balancing the student psyche

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The verdict is in. Being a student is difficult. Anyone with a perception of the higher education system can tell you that, but only individuals who have gone through the higher education system as a student have a true idea of what it really takes to be a student. After saving up for years or researching for the right loan or scholarship program comes the sleepless nights, months at a time of constant revision, and overwhelming feelings and thoughts that never seem to let up until the last assessment is submitted or the last exam is taken of the current semester. When it comes down to it, the higher education system is a very testing environment, and while it is undeniably worth it as well, there is a lot to be said about the strength and determination it takes to make it through the three plus years of intense study and revision. Many students that go through the higher education system around the world do so with the understanding that committing to their higher education also ensures that there will moments of struggle, times of stress.

What these students may not realise, however, is there is an astonishingly high chance of they themselves, or someone they know, struggling at some point throughout their degree (48% of students surveyed in 2018 report experiencing struggle at the hands of their studies at some point during their degree).It is one thing for someone to say that they know that balancing life as a student is hard, but it is another thing entirely when someone goes out of their way to help a student find their way through the straight up chaos that is assessment block (or at any point during an individual’s academic career, for that matter). There are many solutions that students can incorporate themselves to alleviate their stress, and each of them have their own potential for impact and longevity. Things like creating a plan for the semester ahead, scheduling study periods during the week/throughout the whole semester, and forming support groups work wonders when it comes to alleviating the stress of academic commitments.

Despite these coping mechanisms working wonders for many, it is widely known that sometimes the self-help methods do not always work so well. When a student is stressed, anxious, or even depressed, it can be incredibly difficult to pull themselves out of the fog enough to realise that they are experiencing stress-related issues. Sometimes, no matter how obvious it looks from the outside, the darkness is too inky black to see through enough to find any sense of clarity. This is when it is most dangerous for students to be in this mindset. The psyche of any individual is a delicate thing, but the mindset of a constantly challenged and exhausted student is intricate beyond what many can even comprehend. Pursuing higher education is naturally always going to be a challenge – that is what it was designed for, after all – but when students are caught in positions of being especially anxious or stressed, they can easily fall into unhealthy patterns that can go on to have serious – sometimes irreversible – impacts.

Colleges and universities should be ensuring that their students are aware of all the available channels for academic and personal assistance, and yet many of them do not. While still obviously serious, the best case scenario for a mentally struggling student is that they can feel tempted into cheating their way through assessments (and especially during times of increased stress throughout the academic semester). The worst-case scenario is that struggling students feel the impulse to hurt themselves or others. They do not always have the awareness that this impulse is caused by their chaotic mindset, and so it is difficult – if not impossible – for them to make conscious actions and decisions that are mentally stable. As academic institutions, it is the responsibility of colleges and universities alike to help their students when they struggle and to provide avenues or information for places that can help – this is where the real impact can come in. When the school feels like a supportive environment, the student feels they can approach them about their circumstances and get the assistance they need when they need it.

Studying in the higher education system is a stressful experience. While any form of education is designed to challenge the student, what it comes down to in the end is that nearly half the global student population report experiencing struggle of some kind at some point throughout their experience with higher education. This is an issue for obvious reasons. Thankfully, there are multiple solutions out there, and while many of them take time to take full effect, they are each quite beneficial in their own way. All in all, helping students alleviate the stress of high-intensity periods in the semester ultimately helps them to balance their psyche as well. A healthy student is a happy student, and vice versa. All that really matters is that students are given reliable resources to assist them when they feel like they are beginning to take float in the chaos. Mental clarity is just as important – if not more important – than physical health. It is time that we treated it such.

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