Video: Why are students more stressed these days?

Today's students experience more stress than earlier generations. We talked to a psychotherapist who has some advice.

18.03.2021

by Wendy Sexton


According to a study, one in four students in Germany feels very stressed. What do you think could be the reason for that?

Well, when you start to study usually a lot of other things come along. Many students go out of their home; they don't live with their parents anymore. Many of them for the first time. University and the studies you choose, are more related to your future, to what you will work one day. And I think this might produce more fears of what you will become one day. And also, the never ending "I should, I could, I must do stuff" without anyone telling me. There is no teacher like in school who tells you "you have homework until tomorrow." But you need to plan your time, you need to study on your own mostly. So, I think these are the reasons why students, university students are really stressed nowadays.

Why are students more stressed today than in the past?

So, one thing might be Bologna, the change in the structure of the studies with bachelor and master’s degrees. Every exam counts now, so from the beginning on, students need to prove that they are worth of studying this. Every grade counts for the degree. And also, students tend to be younger than in former times. So, on the one hand, they are still more dependent on their parents financially, psychologically. And on the other hand, they are younger and need to study on their own earlier than in former times. And right now, of course, with the pandemic, I think this is really hard for students right now.

Which factors lead most to pressure to perform? And how can it be reduced?

I think there are personal factors and a tendency to be perfect. Maybe the experience of being the best in class or the smart kid in the family. But there are also structural factors, like the pressure to study just in time, no semester more than it's planned by university. And also, the comparison to other students. Suddenly you study something that you really want to do and there are hundreds of other people who really want to do this, too. And then, of course, you start comparing yourself with others. But this might produce pressure. To prevent this pressure, try to focus on yourself; try not to compare yourself that much to others. And also, don't forget your hobbies, don't forget your personal development. I think between 18, 25, 30 it's the time, when you find yourself in the end. When you develop, when you find new friends, really important friends. And this way you can prevent stress and be a better student at the same time.

What causes examination anxiety and what can be done about it?

Examination anxiety, an anxiety is a fear in the end and a fear has a certain function. In an evolutionary perspective fear protects us. It helps us to react faster, to work more effectively in the end. So, until a certain point, fear or anxiety is useful, is functional. But then it can turn dysfunctional, it can turn unproductive. In modern psychology, examination anxiety is seen as part of social anxiety. So, most people are not really afraid of not being able to pass the exam or they are not afraid of not being able to deal with the material, but more that this is seen by others, that in comparison to others they are not as good, that they do not perform that well. I think what helps with examination anxiety is to take the perspective of the others. Do you care what others write in their exams, what grade they get? Of course, it helps to prepare in a good way, to study a little before the exam and to strengthen your resources and to think of something positive before the exam.

What is important in ones own time management to prevent stress?

The most important thing is to see it as a time management and not as work management. So, if you schedule your time, don't just put "study, work, study" in it, but it is very important to sleep, it is very important to eat, and it is important to have a good time as well. If you, for example, write to-do lists, the most important thing is that they are doable, that you don't put your goals to high. Also schedule free time, time with your friends, time to develop personally.

Do you think that anonymity in particularly large study programmes could play a role in causing stress?

Social isolation itself is a stress factor and on the other hand, a coping strategy for stress is friends, is a social network. If you are new in a city and you come to study something with hundreds of students and it's really hard to get to know them, I think there is a lack of the coping strategy if you don't know anyone and on the other hand, the social isolation is a stress factor itself.

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