How to take care of your mental health while preparing for competitive exams?
Academic stress refers to the distress caused among students due to exams, studies, deadlines for submissions, competitive environment, etc. This stress often leads them to enter the vicious cycle of hope, fear of failure, despair, self-doubt, and at times burnout. It has become one of the leading causal factors of mental health issues like depression, suicide ideation, anxiety, etc.
The highly competitive and advancing world makes it impossible to avoid this stress. Some students function better under pressure while some break down due to this stress. Every student’s mental health is important and it is essential that we help them manage their emotions, pressure, and distress. One way to do that is to set up a healthy schedule. One’s schedule should be flexible enough to accommodate study hours, breaks, and leisure time (like sports, music, and other hobbies), regular and proper sleep (6-8 hours is advisable). Building a routine where one has short breaks after hours of studying not only relaxes the body but also the mind. It is seen to improve learning ability, memory, and cognition. In fact, a little movement after every 45 minutes boosts concentration power. This can be as simple as 5 jumps and extend to a 5 min walk around the house.
Another way that helps is color coding and mind mapping. Mind mapping refers to creating flowcharts and diagrams to understand your text while color-coding is assigning different colors to it. One can use different colors to write topics, sub-topics, explanations, etc. This helps keep the mind active and also develops an efficient notetaking habit. This process also goes in sync with Pareto’s principle. According to Pareto’s 80/20 rule, if we are reading a book then only 20% of it is actually important while the other 80% is not that relevant to us. An efficient note-taking helps one focus on that 20% later on and removes the extra 80.
Relaxation techniques like mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, sitting with nature, etc. also help boost one’s self-esteem and concentration. For this, students can use apps that help keep one calm for instance listening to soft music while sleeping, experiencing virtually real nature, etc.
While facing academic stress students often undergo self-doubt and feel helpless. One effective way to release that energy is by talking about it with parents, teachers, elder siblings, and mentors. This can help them gain insights, break the cycle and also enhance their self-confidence. Sometimes a cry helps. In case one feels overwhelmed and is unable to manage their emotions, one can consult a counselor. Other than students, parents, and teachers should look out for warning signs and direct them to appropriate ways of letting their thoughts out. This is the time where it is very natural for students to fall prey to a substance like alcohol, cigarettes, etc. and if not dealt with adequately they can become addicted to it. So what’s necessary is that parents should keep a check on their children and help provide a safe environment to them where they feel supported and not threatened. A few ways to do that are talking about their life, sharing their own personal experiences, spending time with them, and engaging in leisure activities like watching a film, comedy shows, playing in the park, etc.
Students should be taught to fight their problems and not run away from them. Academic stress is just a hurdle that they can overcome with little support, unconditional regard, and support.