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Essentials for Healthy Living: Effective Methods of Coping with Academic Stress

Submitted by on February 13, 2016 – 7:10 PM

college_student_stressStress is a universal condition and it is faced by every person around the globe, without any difference of age, gender or socioeconomic background. The variable aspect of stress is the stressor faced by an individual, which can be maturational, situational or adventitious. Common stressors are related to health, education, family, relations, employment, housing and many others (Stuart, 2013). Coping or adapting with stressful events positively in a healthy manner is a big challenge for an individual in order to maintain the overall well being (An et al., 2012).

On my Psychiatric Nursing clinical, I encountered a 36 years old female client. She was studying surgery and was frustrated of her stressful academic studies and tough examinations. She reported that during her exams she developed palpitations, tremors, diaphoresis and dizziness. Due to this stressful situation she decided to take some medications to calm herself in order to decrease the burden of her academic stress. Eventually she couldn’t manage it and chose a maladaptive coping strategy of drinking vodka to overcome it.

According to Videbeck (2011) Coping is a conscious response to any stress provoking situation that is perceived as dread or fear for a person. Coping mechanisms utilized by people to minimize or eradicate threat could be healthy or effective like laughing out loud to relieve tension or facing bravely the stressor to overcome fear. On the contrary, coping can be unhealthy or ineffective for example substance abuse or using medications to overcome symptoms of anxiety, as evident in above case.

Dealing issues related to academic circumstances is crucial and significant in all aspects because education is overall necessary for an individual’s life. Our religion Islam emphasizes us about seeking knowledge and guides us to pursue education throughout the lifespan. As prophet Muhammad said: ‘‘Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave” (Naghavi, 2009). Also, societal values regarding getting education, parental pressures, involvement and expectations of relatives, technological advancements and competition among friends and siblings, signifies the worth of being educated and well qualified.

Moreover, education is deeply associated with mental health and illness. Education itself is a protective factor that helps an individual to cope with stressors in order to take care of one’s own mental health. On the other hand, it is also a risk factor because academic stress increases the risk of mental illness in those individuals who are unable to effectively cope with that stress, in regard to achieve better results and fulfill the academic expectations. The ratio of perceived academic stress in students especially in medical field has very significant association with impacts on their mental health (Shah, Hasan, Malik & Sreeramareddy, 2010).

According to Deb, Strodl & Sun (2015) educational tasks like tests, assignments or maintaining grades are biggest challenges for students and it is a source of creating anxiety and depression, even in small school children as well. Another study supported that suicide due to concealed depression is one of the common causes of mortality in young generation and it has been estimated that academic stress could be one of the factor behind it (Jayanthi, Thirunavukarasu & Rajkumar, 2015). Mental health of students facing burden of the educational activities is more compromised when they choose unhealthy modes of coping like substance or drug abuse (Mahmud et al., 2014), alike the client in the above case study.

Integrating the above situation of client through Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) Transactional model of stress (as cited in Gibbons, 2010, p. 1300), the primary appraisal which refers to perceiving the situation as threat was client’s fear for academic studies and failure in examination. The secondary appraisal denotes the capability of an individual to cope with the particular stressful event with resources available. This coping can be either adaptive or maladaptive. In the above mentioned case, the client was not capable to utilize an adaptive coping response in order to deal with her stress. She preferred a maladaptive coping response for her perceived fear, in the form of taking medications and drinking vodka.

It is strongly recommended on the basis of these situations encountered frequently in hospital setting that Nurses, Doctors and other healthcare providers must guide clients regarding practical and effective coping strategies to adopt healthy ways of dealing their stressors like managing time, maintaining schedules, play or sports of choice, seeking assistance from seniors in the same field, music therapy and many other alternatives. Along with it encouraging clients to work on their own behaviors to manage academic stress is another realistic action. School nurses must assess children for mental health issues and investigate for stressors along with physical symptoms. On Community or institutional level, children with problems in studies should be encouraged to seek help from elders or experts.

Universities and educational institutions should look into their schedules and examination patterns. Facilities of student development and counseling should be established in educational institutes. Adding sports, arts or music into structured curriculum of schools and colleges would minimize the overall burden of study. Government and policy makers, who are responsible for educational development at state level should review curriculum and add innovative teaching learning strategies to enhance the interest of students and thus decrease the load of cramming books.

In conclusion, stressors are major part of life experienced by everyone and coping with it is a great task to be done. Coping could be effective and healthy or it can be ineffective or unhealthy. Positive adaptation can enhance functioning of life in a better manner; on the other hand maladaptation to the stress can lead to poor functioning which ultimately affects mental health of an individual.

 

References:
An, H., Chung, S., Park, J., Kim, S., Kim, K. M., & Kim, K. (2012). Novelty seeking and avoidant coping strategies are associated with academic stress in Korean medical students. Psychiatry Research, 200, 464–468. Retrieved from
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2012.07.048

Deb, S., Strodl, E., & Sun, J. (2015). Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Anxiety and Mental Health among Indian High School Students. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 5(1), 26-34. doi:10.5923/j.ijpbs.20150501.04

Gibbons, C. (2010). Stress, coping and burn-out in nursing students. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47, 1299–1309. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2010.02.015

Jayanthi, P., Thirunavukarasu, M., & Rajkumar, R. (2015). Academic Stress and Depression among Adolescents: A Cross-sectional Study. Indian Pediatrics, 52(3), 217-9. Retrieved
from http://www.indianpediatrics.net/mar2015/217.pdf

Mahmud, H. M., Kalam, M., Nawaz, A., Khan, S., Imam, H., & Khan, O. A. (2014). Are Medical Undergraduates more Likely to Indulge in Substance Abuse than Non-Medical Undergraduates? A Survey from Karachi. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, 24(7), 515-518. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25052977

Naghavi, H. (2009). Pearls of Wisdom: A Selection of hadiths from the Prophet Muhammad. Retrieved from http://messageofthaqalayn.com/39-pearls.pdf

Shah, M., Hasan, S., Malik, S., & Sreeramareddy, C. T. (2010). Perceived Stress, Sources and Severity of Stress among medical undergraduates in a Pakistani Medical School. BMC Medical Education, 10(2), 1-8. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-
6920/10/2

Stuart, G. W. (2013). Principles and Practice of Psychiatric nursing. (10th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.

Videbeck, S. L. (2011). Psychiatric Mental health Nusring (5th ed.). China: lippincott Williams
and Wilkins.

 

About the Author: Sarmad Muhammad Soomar is a Final year student of Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Public Health, Mental Health, Child Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Geriatrics, Education and Research are his primary areas of interest. Language, arts and Writing are his passion. He can be reached through [email protected]

 

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