Best coping strategies for academic stress

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Academic stress is real. It has been documented in numerous experimental and descriptive research studies. Moreover, academic stress is known to affect academic performance. Academic performance is basically a function of “students’ study habits” which refer to how “systematic, efficient or inefficient” one’s way of studying is (Nakalema & Ssenyonga). If academic stress levels are high, academic performance becomes lower (Nakalema & Ssenyonga). In fact, 32.9% of all university students report that academic stress has been affecting their academic performance. For example, 20% of students reported that sleep difficulties gravely affected their academic performance (Ellis). That is how serious the problem of academic stress is. Thus, there is an urgent need to address the issue. Moreover, any improvement when it comes to academic performance reflects an improvement in coping with academic stress. This research proposal hypothesizes that the best coping strategy for academic stress is changing one’s mindset into a positive one.

Specifically, this paper seeks to find answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the specific ways that students use to cope with academic stress?
  2. How effective are these ways in terms of improvement in academic performance?
  3. How effective is changing one’s mindset into a positive one?
  4. Are there any known drawbacks to changing one’s mindset to positive?

Causes of Academic Stress

Academic stress is brought about by several causes. One of the causes of academic stress is “poor study habits” such as “poor time management” (Nakalema & Ssenyonga). Moreover, other causes of academic stress include “daily academic hassles,” which are specifically defined as being “under pressure to obtain good grades to meet the personal and social expectations” due to being sensitive to feedback from family members and peers” (Nakalema & Ssenyonga).

The demands of study, or specifically the need for study motivation, are another major cause of academic stress. Moreover, studying a chapter is one of the weakest study habits of a university student (Nakalema & Ssenyonga). Thus, students develop academic stress even from lacking the motivation to study one chapter of a book.

Other causes of academic stress include too much use of television and computer. In fact, those who did not watch any television had a significantly higher GPA compared to those who watched even just two hours of TV each day. Moreover, those who played just less than one hour of computer games each day had a relatively higher GPA compared to those who played games longer than five hours. It has therefore been concluded by experts that screen time always reduces efficiency in academic performance, and decreased academic performance usually leads to academic stress (Ellis).

Other factors that bring about academic stress include binge drinking, drugs as well as smoking. This is once more proven by the GPA as those who have alcohol issues usually have relatively lower GPA than those who do not have these. In fact, the use of tobacco in order to appear more “social” is actually decreasing academic performance. Any decrease in academic performance also brings about academic stress (Ellis).

What was surprising is that those who were sexually or physically abused in the past did not have decreased academic performance and thus did not have any academic stress related to their past experiences (Ellis).Moreover, it was also a surprise that having to work while studying, or doing part-time jobs, did not have any effect on academic performance and was therefore not a cause of academic stress (Ellis). This somehow implies that past experiences in life as well as the pressures of having a part-time job may not have any significant impact on the academic stress levels of a student.

Consequences of Academic Stress

One consequence of academic stress is poor academic performance (Nakalema & Ssenyonga). In fact, depression, anxiety and greater stress are the results of academic stress (Khan et al. 148). In fact, the biggest evidence for reduced academic performance is reduced GPA (Ellis).

Moreover, it is expected that female students will have more or less the same level of academic stress as male students. This is because both male and female students have learned time management skills as well as various stress coping strategies (Khan et al. 148).

It has also been predicted that academic stress will be higher among younger students compared to older students. This is because younger students are not much more adjusted to stress and academic pressure and may not have more developed time management skills compared to older students. On the other hand, older students have not only adjusted themselves but have even developed successful time management techniques that actually alleviated stress levels and anxiety (Khan et al. 148). In fact, first year students are always the ones who are most affected by academic stress (Nakalema & Ssenyonga).

Furthermore, when it comes to their effects on one’s physical health, academic stress can actually produce many physical problems. These include depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and sleep disorders (Ellis). Thus, all these explain why the issue of academic stress needs to be adequately and immediately addressed.

Known Coping Strategies

Various coping strategies employed by students who are experiencing academic stress usually include avoidant coping methods and through positive ways. Examples of avoidant coping methods include drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and behavioral disengagement. Positive methods may actually include “acceptance, planning and positive reframing as well as taking the necessary steps in overcoming the stress” (Nakalema & Ssenyonga). Positive reframing of the mind, or positive thinking, is one of the methods emphasized here.

Queen’s University recommended a number of tips that students must do in order to alleviate academic stress. These include anticipating stressful events and planning ahead, changing one’s mindset or adopting a more positive attitude toward stress, changing one’s behavior like breaking down big tasks into smaller ones, changing one’s situation like reducing e-distractions like the social media, and employing relaxation techniques like jogging or yoga (“Stress and Coping Strategies”). Developing a positive attitude is once more emphasized by this source.

The Huffington Post also recommended coping strategies for academic stress that they said have been proven to be effective many times. These include taking the time for self-care like having adequate sleep and avoiding the use of harmful substances, learning to change one’s thinking into one that does not think about stress most of the time, taking assignments one step at a time, lowering one’s goals or expectations of oneself, and staying balanced during periods of examination like taking short breaks and doing fun activities before returning back to school work (“Academic Pressure”).Once more, learning to change one’s thinking, or changing one’s mindset into a positive one, is emphasized by this particular source.

The issue of academic stress needs to be addressed because of the seriousness of its effects and consequences not only in terms of health but also in terms of overall academic performance. The causes of academic stress may either be academic pressure that one cannot properly handle or too much playing of video games and too much drinking or other things done in excess. Among the recommended coping strategies to reduce academic stress, the most commonly mentioned is changing one’s mindset into a positive one. Thus, this seems to be a good and effective strategy in reducing stress.

Did you like this sample?
  1. “Academic Pressure: 5 Tips From An Expert On Coping With School Stress.” Huffington Post, 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/academic-pressure-5-tips-_n_2774106.html>
  2. Ellis, Madeline. “How Stress Affects Academic Performance.” Health News, 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2016. <http://www.healthnews.com/en/news/How-Stress-Affects-Academic-Performance/2wJiMoIl1ErOCym8JC9lWD/>
  3. Khan, Mussarat Jabeen, Seema Altaf & Hafsa Kausar. “Effect of Perceived Academic Stress on Students’ Performance.” FWU Journal of Social Sciences 7.2 (2013): 146-151. Print.
  4. Nakalema, Gladys & Joseph Ssenyonga. “Academic Stress: Its Causes and Results at a Ugandan University.” African Journal of Teacher Education 3.3 (2013). Web. 6 Dec. 2016. <https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/ajote/article/view/2762/3253>
  5. “Stress and Coping Strategies.” Queen’s University, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2016. <http://sass.queensu.ca/learningstrategies/topic-stress-and-coping-strategies/>
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