Identifying and Managing Stress
This topic provides information for students on identifying and managing stress.
Identification of common stress symptoms
Common Physical reactions
- Muscle tension
- Sleep difficulties
- Rapid uneven or pounding heartbeat
- Frequent urge to pass urine
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Chest discomfort
- Change in appetite, constipation or diarrhea
Common Psychological reactions
- Feeling under pressure, frustration and aggression
- Feeling tense and unable to relax
- Feeling mentally drained out
- Fussy, gloomy or suspicious, being constantly frightened or irritable
- Inability to concentrate or complete the task
Other Psychological symptoms/ reactions
- Increased disinterest in studies; Seeing more TV, sleeping more
- Irritable/ crying / cranky
- Preoccupied, absent minded
- Headaches, fainting spells, vomiting
- Wanting to be alone
- Major changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Lack of attention and concentration; Forgetfulness
- Inability to complete tasks or make study plans
- Staying out longer, non- communicating with parents , having health problems.
These refer to physical symptoms that the student shows but there is no biological basis for them and the root cause is in psychological factors. The following are the symptoms.
- Nagging headaches
- Fainting spells.
- Diarrhea/gastric trouble
- Asthmatic attacks
- Feeling tensed and unable to relax
- Writing camps bloomed or
- Absent vision
Do not deny the symptoms as the student may be genuinely in trouble and is not pretending pain. Professional advise may be taken in such cases.
High Risk Behavior : Suicide, Drug Abuse, Self Harm, Aggression
It is important to be careful and helpful. Sometimes, stress, anxiety and depression may lead to high risk behavior in students.
- It is behavior that is potentially harmful to self or others.
- Behavior relating to consumption and abuse of psychotropic drugs or commonly used medicines likes cough syrups, sleeping pills, painkillers, without prescription.
- Behavior related to smoking and consumption of alcohol.
- Self-harming behavior like Suicide, Wrist slashing, Hitting self, Starving deliberately etc.
- Harm to others in the form of abusive and aggressive behavior like rash driving or violence to others in any form.
Suicide is the most serious manifestation of high risk behavior. A lot many suicides are impulsive while others are well planned. Impulsive students are likely to decide on the spur of the moment. Hence it is important to buy time.
Indicators for increased chance for suicide
- Withdrawal behavior for few days
- Mention of suicide repeatedly.
- Suicide note
- Disinterest in studies.
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- A history of serious psychological problems.
- A history of impulsive, poorly controlled and destructive behavior
- A history of continuing academic problems and learning difficulties.
- Adjustment difficulties with family, school, peers etc.
- Balancing food choices is important.
- Breakfast provides the energy needed through an active morning.
- Children who skip breakfast may have trouble concentrating.
- Fast foods supply more fat, salt and calories than good nutrition.
- Replace finger chips with an apple.
- Add roughage to the diet – Dalia, Corn will help prevent stomach discomfort
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
- Parents should teach good habits by example.
Good sleep is very essential during exams. Insomnia (the inability to fall or stay asleep) can be caused by stress and anxiety of exam. If there is a disturbance in the sleep/ wake cycle during exams and if unable to sleep a doctor may be consulted.
Physical activity and Yoga
- Exercise: Planned and structured leisure time physical activity should be included in daily routine for improving and maintaining physical fitness.
- Sports and Yoga: Any choice of outdoor game like badminton, squash, tennis for a brief period and Yoga is good.
Interventions in cases of high risk behaviour
- Counseling and professional advise is useful.
- Long lectures with a moralistic tone are not advised. These make the already depressed student guiltier and his/her intent stronger.
- The student should be advised to contact a professional counselor as soon as possible. If not efforts should be made to encourage him to meet his/her teachers or school counselors or talk to the parents. The more a student talks about the problems to various people; the more is he/she likely to feel better.
- A student who is severely depressed and expresses absolute helplessness about future is more at risk than a student who talks about casual things.
- No medicines should be prescribed without a professional's advise.
Dos & Don’ts in dealing with high risk behaviourDos:
- Discourage the behavior.
- Keep communication channels open
- Talk about the negative and long-term effects.
- Teach (quick) relaxation/breathing
- Teach anger management
- Teach evaluation of consequences.
- Talk about the need for sharing this information with parents/teachers.
- Make the student understand that monitoring by parents or counselors is essential for early recovery.
- Do no prescribe medication.
- Do not reprimand.
- Do not moralize or make the person feel guilty.
Dealing with Stress
Parents should look out for the following signs :
- Physical symptoms, such as sleeping or eating more or less than usual
- Mental symptoms, such as loss of concentration and interest
- Emotional symptoms such as tears, tantrums, panic attacks
- Addictive symptoms, such as excessive drinking or smoking or using pills
- Self depreciating comments “I knew I‟ll never pass or never do well or...Mohit‟s much brighter than me.........”
Must Dos for parents :
- Do not nag the child. Be supportive and encouraging.
- Help the child to develop self-discipline, self-direction, self-confidence and a sense of achievement. Just good schooling and tuition are not substitutes for emotional cushioning.
- Help the child in maintaining his confidence especially when he seems discouraged by his dropping marks or grades.
- Do not displace your anxiety on the child.
- The achievement goals should be realistically set according to the child‟s capability.
- Praise the child when he does well. Encourage the child‟s performance with positive statements like, “well done”, “you can do better”, rather than saying “that was not enough”.
- Do not harp on previous failures or results.
- If achievement expectations are too high it may lead to greater anxiety.
- Humour relieves tension. Be light and humorous with the child.
- Try to gain your child‟s confidence and discuss problems. Help to find a solution.
- Exams are not the end of the world.
- Accept that expectation for everyone to do well is unrealistic.
- Involve the child in decision making.
- Many students do better after school because of maturity and greater focus, course of interest, rise and awareness level and exposure to options
- Avoid criticizing or comparing the child with others.
- Make the child feel important and loved.
- Listen to your child.
- Take help of a professional counselor in case of a conflict or depression.
For a Student:
- Make realistic study plans; Assess priorities, assets and difficulties
- Follow a normalized routine atmosphere at home .
- Take frequent breaks.
- Do not strip off TV or entertainment and outings.
- Imagining extreme consequences and worst situations is of no use .
- See what can be accomplished in the remaining time.
- Learn to take examination in a normal way, tackle questions and manage time.
- Contact the teachers or counselors if feeling low or anxious or disinterested in studies.