Nowadays, students are bogged down with the burden to perform and there is tremendous academic stress on children and adolescents to excel in their studies. This is mainly because for the competition that is prevalent in today’s times and also because of the limited number of seats in professional courses in India and abroad.
Parents and students themselves too, are to be blamed for their obsession with high grades and high percentages. However, it would be good to be reminded, that academic stress can have a lot of short-term as well as long-term adverse effects on the brain. Here we highlight a few of these effects.
The most common symptom of academic stress is headache. The headache could be ‘tension-type or worsening of existing migraine headaches. May parents bring their kids studying in primary schools with complaints of headache? They are worried about a serious brain disease. On taking a detailed history, it becomes obvious in those cases that academic stress is the cause and brain scans, if done, come out normal.
Good and refreshing sleep plays an important role in physical and mental well-being of a child. Even, memory consolidation and growth hormone secretion occur during sleep. Academic stress often involves late night studies or getting up early morning for tuition/classes, thus reducing the sleep duration. Many children get an average of only five hours of sleep against the recommended normal sleep during of 7-8 hours. Lack of sleep in children causes various health problems including lack of attention, concentration, headaches, tiredness & fatigue, irritability and poor memory.
It is not uncommon to see behavioral problems in children and adolescents. These problems may include irritability, depression, social isolation, inability to enjoy normal life activities, and even suicidal tendencies is some cases. Very often, the underlying reason for these changes is severe academic stress.
The pressure can be from teachers, parents or the peer group. It is not that this pressure affects only academically, poor students. Several children, who are class toppers, succumb to this academic stress too. Therefore, it is important to recognize these symptoms and take professional help, if necessary.
A stress-free brain and mind is necessary to have a good memory. This is because under stress, attention span and concentration are reduced. Therefore, academic stress often leads to poor memory in children. Poor memory can lead to poor performance in examinations, leading to more stress. This becomes a vicious cycle. So, it is important to minimize academic stress to ensure better memory.
If this kind of pressure persists, the problems can also become chronic. We all know that grades or percentages do not mean much, when it comes to doing well later in life or excelling in a particular job. So, it is best to move away from the obsession with grades and pushing children to study for long hours. A healthy combination of studies and physical activities will ensure a more healthy brain. Also, children should be allowed to enjoy studies, rather than studying merely for examinations.
Tips to Managing Academic Stress:
• Time management – It is very important to learn this basic need to stay away from stress. Make a schedule for the whole week and ensure that it covers all the activities including study hours, meal times and recreation. This will help later on in life too.
• Organize – When you sit down to study, ensure that all the things related to it are within your arms reach. This saves time and you will not stress about where the things are.
• Study Earlier- If your exams are approaching, starts the preparations at least three weeks earlier. The amount of studying will not pile up and you will not feel the stress before a well of the exams.
• Divide the work – It is important to divide the amount of reading or studying that has to be done, as this will enable you to know how much you have cleared in your reading list.