Stress among students

Ritwiz Gaur, Ashi Gaur
A dreaded truth – twenty five students committed suicide in Telangana after mismanaged exam results; nineteen year old student in Hyderabad shot himself with his father’s revolver when he was unsuccessful in JEE Mains examination; young children are resorting to substance dependance or abuse to meet out their stress level; road rage, petty and serious crime involvement; acute depressions.
It is a nightmare! A sinister set-up!
But the fact that is axiomatic from the past pattern is that such tragic deaths or sordid events are not new. It keeps on happening in society; attracts some temporary media hype; jerk -for some while- the fraternity of academicians, parents, educators, intelligentsia, society and then in no time everything turn oblivion. Being law scholar, we are constrained to ponder over selective insensitivity of judicial activism which had history of landmark pronouncement that revised and revamped the ambit of Right To Life especially of youth of nations.
Stress has been declared as the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World health organisation. But, intriguingly and interestingly, it is an ‘epidemic’ that commonly goes ‘overlooked’, because “people don’t see it as a legitimate illness” though paradoxically “Stress is ubiquitous in modern life”.
Similarly, “Schooling” phase is one of the most vibrant and memorable experiences in an adolescent’s life. It is school days, that a student enjoys with the scintillating and vibrant environment, lifetime friends and the various academic and co-curricular activities, which enriches and nurtures and thereby prepares the student for adulthood. But ironically, from a closer perspective, the school students encounter with number of challenges in day today life, therefore the whole idea of an exciting and vibrant school life is unveiled by these challenges which in turn contribute to stress and if not dealt, timely & adequately, can only escalate and hamper their academic performance, emotional and social well being.
The inception of the 21st century is characterised by the rise in globalization, a process which diminishes the necessity of a common and shared territorial basis for social, economic and political activities, processes and relations (Crane & Matten, 2010). This process has affected all parts of contemporary life. One major aspect which has undergone substantial change due to globalization is education-in general and school education-in particular. In a rat race to succeed over others’ successes, escalating misplaced parental aspiration, matrix of confused educators vis-a-vis fast changing pedagogy together with government mandates, present genre of students are exposed to considerable amount of stress. To add to gravity is the fact that such facts and circumstances are faced by child when s(he) is undergoing teen year’s age when a lot of biological, physical, mental and emotional changes are happening, and even changes in role and responsibilities.
Any classification for students’s stress defy specificity and clarity due to appended complexity. For teens, the list of possible stress is not comprehensive at all – from puberty to family problems to social media to road rage to criminal offences – but it typically starts in school. School going youth are dealing with anxiety around their relationships, which is often exacerbated by social media. They grapple with issues about how to fit in with peers, peer pressure, bullying, relationships. Broadly major stressors for students are classified as – Academic Stressors, Social stressors and Pecuniary stressors, Physiological Stressors, Psychological Stressors. Academic stressors are the sources of stress experienced by students during examination, handling academic workload, disagreement with parents, teachers, peers; unsatisfactory academic performance; rising self-parental-teacher aspiration; lack of interest in a particular subject and teacher’s punishment. To worsen the situation, in today’s age of Artificial intelligence, stress is doubled by the fact that academic achievement is considered as the sole criterion for evaluating a student’s performance. Physiological stressors include illness, injuries, hormonal fluctuations, and inadequate sleep or nutrition. Social stressors not only originate from the fact that with the progress of human civilisation and increasing plurality of our society people need to play more roles; but it also includes – differential treatment by parents, teachers, peers; adjustment on school campus; social events, etc. Pecuniary Stressors are the stress attributes experienced by students caused by various factors like family having money problem or facing financial crisis, managing monthly expenses. In teenage, students are mostly concerned about their physical appearances than about other aspects. The psychological stressors are caused by Illness or surgery, unhappy childhood, poor diet, loneliness, exam pressure, low self esteem, excess anger or irritation, personality and attitude problem. Negative self-talk, catastrophizing, and perfectionism all contribute to increased stress. Families with constant conflicts are characterised by a lack of parent-child communication and in-depth understanding of each other’s expectations. The control or punishment imposed further increase the psychological stress on children. Moreso, in today’s society, students spend as much time at school as they do at other places such as home; consequently some other, often overlooked, factors that influence “stress factor” for students are -thermal comfort factors, security, air temperature, humidity and student’s clothes and physical activity. Further, in present epoch of Information revolution, an uncontrolled, irrational and unsupervised access of student to technology can lead to serious situation of child comparing to others to a sometimes obsessive degree, and also means it’s difficult to truly escape unhealthy interactions that could previously be left at the school gate.
Various scholars had in a way reiterated this classification. According to Adams(1983,in Kamaruddin, 1997) the main reason for stress among schooling children is activity associated with schooling such as communication and family problems. In addition, confusion to make decision and choose right career path, and also financial problems play vital role in increasing the stress level. Even Morris research on stress suggest that high school students face academic stress while competing with each other for good grades. In addition, stress and specific situation like learning environment in school, fear of failure and inability to do work effectively due to heavy work load hold intimate relationship. Apart from these researchers, Fariza who conducted a research on stress among high school students found out that these students have to deal with academic world where hope and expectation from themselves and teachers as well as parents are maximum which ultimately leads to high stress. Moreover, Mates and Alission suggested that to lower the stress level among high school kids, academic curriculum needs to be revaluated and shifting the major focus to all round development of student rather than examination. Suitable teaching learning method needs to be brought into practice so that maximum level of achievement is reached with low stress. According to the research done by Dr.Sarason and his co- workers, he reveals the major setback for the all round development of school children and their degrading performance is due to the increased stress. Heavy academic workload at school results in stress at physical, mental and emotional level. In addition to this, Ashad Ali Khan’s blog explains about negative impact of stress in high school and reasons for increased stress level among students. According to him, people of all age group and professionals suffer from stress and school students are more prone to this due to the certain biological, physical, emotional changes they undergo at teen age. Newman. J describes the relationship between stress level and academic achievement of high school student which is inversely proportional to each other.
Every Child Manifests
Every child reveals through signs and actions about his mental wellbeing. Some of the message and signals clearly convey to “ignorant adult world” that they’re feeling nervous and anxious, or are irritable or angry, beyond what adult would think is typical teen behaviour. Other signs include procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, losing sleep, changes in their appetite – either eating too much or too little, getting sick more frequently and becoming unable to do tasks that they could before. Some physiological symptoms such as headache are signals of mental overload. Other signal included fatigue, depression, anxiety, dissatisfaction with certain interpersonal relations, and change of the current sleeping habit and drastic gain/loss of body weight. Setting high goals, being a perfectionist and comparing the self with others and self degradation may all cause stress and results in depression among students.
Rising incidences of school going youth indulging in suicide, substance abuse and/or dependence, violence, serious criminal and commission do indicate that something is grossly wrong in our society – a society that proclaims to be evolving, developing and more proactive for human rights and gender equity. An unfortunate fact – writ large on the face!
Combating Helicopter Parenting
Non-doctrinal research conducted by us over five years in different school system reveals that the mental health and well-being of school students is significantly worse than it was ten years ago, suggesting a worrying trend that schools and parents need to address. ‘Over-involved’, ‘ abnormally concerned’ parents are trying to do everything for their children, taking on too much responsibility on their behalf, and as a result child severely lack confidence. Number of students -who are unable to stand up to pressure – are rising in geometric progression because parents tend to helicopter and educators are getting dictated by such ‘ bonafide diktat’ in pursuance of sacrosanct mission of ‘pleasing the parent’ -newly evolved consumer entity.
Forgotten role of educators
Educators can help the child by using evidence-based strategies to build mental health literacy and encouraging other teachers and counsellors to be more proactive in getting help early for children who may be anxious or depressed. They must ensure “a whole-of-school, zero-tolerance approach” to bullying and social seclusion. Educator need to play an effective role in sensitising both parents and students in regard to cyber-ethics and processes because in present world student stress is often compounded by a “constantly connected culture” fixated on smartphones and social media.
Adults can help teenage youth by “being available” to talk. It’s so important for teens to have at least one trusted adult in their circle that they can talk to and determine if this is a blip or something more severe. Making oneself available to “reach out of a child” is the most effective and healthiest solution. It even helps to be proactive. Adults can also help them with good sleep hygiene, like turning off the screens late at night. Active involvement of adults will make child active, like working out or taking walks or participating in sports. We can help them find a work and fun balance. If everything is about school or work, and they don’t have time to hang with friends or get alone time, that can create greater anxiety. Yet another important strategy is – Have your teen focus on their strengths.
Stress is often the result of feeling trapped and overwhelmed by the problems in our lives. Students are sometimes immobilised by their inability to see a positive outcome for a difficult situation. By teaching them to solve problems one step at a time, we provide them with a useful resource to deal with stress.
Lastly, the most important duty of Adult World is to “recognize” stress and anxiety as a legitimate illness.
(The authors are educators, law scholars and social advocates)


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