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Students coping with the stress

Post by on Sunday, January 16, 2022

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Stress is one of the harshest realities of life that each one of us knows we will be facing in whatever we do. The word stress has many connotations and definitions. In the Eastern philosophies, stress is considered to be an absence of inner peace. Whereas in the Western culture, stress can be thought of as a loss of control. Psychologically, stress is defined by the highly acclaimed researcher Richard Lazarus as a state of anxiety produced when events and responsibilities exceed one's coping abilities.

On the other hand, physiologically, stress is defined as the rate of wear and tear on the body. Selye gave a combined definition of stress that it is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand placed upon it to adapt, whether that demand produces pleasure or pain and believed that the physiological response or arousal was very similar whether a situation was perceived as good (e.g., getting good grades at school) or bad (e.g., failing in an exam). The is means that the body doesn't know the difference between good and bad stress. According to Lazarus and Selye stress is defined as the inability to cope with a perceived or real (or imagined) threat to one’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being which results in a series of physiological responses and adaptations. Stress is not always seen through a negative lens as there are various kinds of stress. One is the eustress which is a good stress occurring in situations where the person feels either motivated or inspired. Second is neustress which is neither considered good nor bad and sensory stimuli that have no consequential effect. The last one is distress which is considered bad and often is abbreviated simply as stress. Various stressors are responsible for the presence of stress in an individual’s life. Stressors have been defined by Feng (1992) and Volpe (2000) as anything which challenges an individual’s adaptability. They are basically the events or circumstances that can be physically and/or psychologically challenging for a person. There are many factors such as environment (family, surroundings/neighborhood, friends), biological, psychological or social through which stress is caused. 


The most crucial factor which can be one of the sources of stress for students is academics. Each life stage is accompanied by some or the other aspect which has a great importance for the individual. These aspects can be work, studies, marriage, etc. Such aspects are usually regarded as some integral accomplishments. Studies is one of the most basic tasks for the students which is also regarded as one of their duties. From the birth of a child parents begin to plan his/her future in terms of their academics and career especially in countries where a lot of importance is given to studies. In India, having an academically brilliant child is a desire that every parent has. Because of the emphasis children see their parents and closed ones giving to studies they mostly judge oneself on academic basis. There is a constant pressure on the students to work over their grades and score good marks. When this desire to get good grades doesn’t mature, then children start to become very demotivated and cannot concentrate on their studies. Other than examinations there are also times when the work load on the students increases in terms of submitting their assignments and practical. If the students procrastinate during this excessive work load time, then they would stress about the deadlines and eventually miss out some which further causes more stress. 

Over the years the competition in entrance examination have increased. The number of seats for these exams are less whereas the students attempting the exam is way higher. Students in their final years stress about their future admissions because of this. For example, in classes 11th and 12th science students start preparing for their engineering/medical entrances and try to focus a lot more on studies leading to a detachment from their social lives. This detachment doesn’t offer a time out from the stressful exam environment making the person stressed all the time. The quest for employment starts after completion of education of an individual which mainly occurs after college. Finding jobs and getting placed in a good firm is the hope which each student has. When these expectations are not met there is distress among the students. Constant pressure from the society to earn a living and be independent also makes this job seeking although more important for the individual. 

According to Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory, the closest layer to the child is the microsystem which includes the relationships and interactions the child has with the immediate environment. This immediate environment includes the peer group of the child which influences them to great extent. A child almost spends the same amount of time away from home in school where they constantly interact with their friends. These friends become an integral part of their lives. In sub-Saharan African, North America, and Europe peer often subsume some of the responsibilities otherwise were taken care by the parents of the individual. This shows the importance that peers have in our lives. But there are also some negative aspects of the larger peer systems. Adolescents continuously have a pressure to fit in their peer groups and they try their best to behave in ways similar to that of these groups. There can be an adaptability of some positive as well negative behaviours depending on the kind of peers the child has. When the adolescent is not able to keep up with their peers they may be teased and threatened to lose the group membership causing stress among the individual. This may have influence on the child’s confidence and instil a sense of self-doubt among them that may further influence other important domains of life such as academic performance of the child or parent-child relationships. 

In order to function in a healthy manner, students need to develop some coping strategies which might help them deal with the stress faced by them in an effective way. Coping can be seen an effort by an individual and other closed ones to reduce the demands which are created by stress. Coping serves as a mechanism which makes the person dealing with stress manage or alter the problem and in turn regulate the emotional responses to that problem/issue they are facing in their lives. There are two types of coping responses. First are the problem focused strategies to coping and other is emotion-focused strategies to coping.  

For students who are dealing with academic stress it is important for them to directly deal with the problem rather than going into avoidance. This is what is known as the problem focused coping in which one deals with problem head on. Having people who can act as the pillar of strength in times of stress is also a blessing in disguise. This means that seeking help from the parents when facing exams or career related difficulties can give a new perspective to the individual and they can act as means of social support. Seeking help from a counsellor who can look into the matter more closely and suggest the right path can also be very useful for students who are facing any kind of stress. Students who need help related to their studying schedules and who are having difficulties studying because of engaging in procrastination can also be suggested some time-management techniques by the counsellor. The two main key to handling many of life’s problems effectively are self-discipline and self-control. Issues such as struggling with the frustration of poor grades in school require on the part of the student reasonable self-control so as to make much progress. 

The second strategy to coping (emotion-focused) involves making some psychological changes and focusing on limiting the disruption that is caused by a stressful event rather than altering the event itself. It includes making the person emotionally intelligent by incorporating an ability to perceive and express emotions, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion. One of the ways to deal with traumatic events that took place in the life of an adolescent in terms of peer pressure, bullying etc. can be to write down the pent-up emotions and went them out. Other than these techniques some relaxation methods that is meditation can be done just in the beginning when one is going for studies or before the starting of an exam. This may bring the person to a relaxed state just before the situations or events that the students consider to be stressful.

For the longer run stress doesn’t benefit anyone and it becomes paramount for the students who have just started their lives and careers to find out ways to cope with stress as this will eventually help them identify the strategies, they can use to encounter stressful circumstances in the future.

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