By Melisa Marzett
Students and young professionals are often exposed to particular stresses: exams, separation from home and loved ones, social unsettledness, adaptation to new conditions, the desire to stand out in a group of peer students, and the wish to gain recognition and status on the team. Even at an age when optimism about health seem inexhaustible, the inability to rest and get rid of the effects of stress, and the lack of knowledge of basic relaxation techniques, all undermines the physical and mental health of a person.
The ability to realize one’s full potential – known as self-actualization – cannot coexist with various forms of risky behavior, poor lifestyle choices, or indiscriminate means of achieving their goals. To save young people from these concerns, it is necessary to reinforce healthy activities aimed at overcoming stressful situations. There are easy and straightforward techniques that can relieve stress from increased demands, mental strain and overload. Here are ten tips to help:
- Eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
- Take short breaks during the day to stretch.
- Plan and prioritize, with reasonable “to do” lists.
- Break down big projects into small tasks.
- Make time in your schedule for fun and relaxation.
- Find ways to chase stress away with humor.
- When things get tense, close your eyes and take ten slow, deep breaths.
- Learn to “go with the flow” and accept what you can’t change.
- Talk out your problems with a trusted friend, relative, or pastor.
- If you have persistent stress-related physical or emotional problems, consult a counselor or licensed therapist.
Mental health for students = future success
It must be remembered that the psychological and physical health of today’s student will determine the success of tomorrow’s professional. Therefore, in working with students, it is essential to help them form positive, optimistic attitudes and internal mechanisms for overcoming possible difficulties and failures. By teaching students to deal with pessimism, it can, to a certain extent, protect them from mental burnout. This does not necessarily mean that students always need to focus only on the expectation of their success in everything. Life shows that this would be a mistake, since we often learn valuable lessons from our failures.
But we need to convey to students that they should not punish themselves for personal error, and that we can always in one way or another affect the results and the degree of our success. A feeling of fear and helplessness only leads to passivity and internal uncertainty such as personal disruptions, loss of control over one’s business, and loss of positive motivation. Therefore, they should try everything in their power to achieve their goals. Moreover, the factors that guarantee the preservation of mental health are:
- The subjective value of individual aspirations, and a positive assessment of their capabilities to attain them.
- A feeling of success and internal satisfaction with the results of their activities.
- High personal significance of the process and outcome of labor.
- A conscious choice of goals and belief in the likelihood of achieving them.
Owning means of self-regulation
All this assists the formation of stress tolerance and directs the individual to search for effective strategies for coping with stress, since the awareness of reality contributes to recognition and real ways of solving it.
And vice versa: defeated moods and low self-confidence can cause disturbances in thought processes (especially in situations involving increased stress) and cause mental blocks at the most inappropriate times (for example, when answering a question on the exam.).
At the same time, previous failure can play a bad joke. American psychologist Martin Seligman called this learned helplessness. That is when an early negative experience (failed exam, rejection letter) becomes fixated upon, and the expectation of repeating such an event produces a negative pattern in behavior. As a result, the connection between the present and past situation becomes the determining factor, and one’s current knowledge and abilities, which would normally have played a leading role, become meaningless.
Since it is the evaluation of the effectiveness of one’s actions that affects the course of thinking, motivational and emotional processes become an essential regulatory mechanism for overcoming stress.
The crisis of gratification
The crisis of gratification is a mental health phenomenon that leads to a sharp increase in dissatisfaction with the results of one’s activities as well as weakness, frustration, and reduced motivation to achieve the goal.
The cause of this phenomenon is the discrepancy between the energy contribution of the effort and the result. Schematically, it looks like a contradiction between a high level of energy costs and an unreasonably small achievement or “reward.”
Because of such energy losses, well-being decreases; and psychosomatic illnesses appear and worsen, as reflected in a general feeling of unwellness. The way to avoid such an unfolding of events can be through help from loved ones: their care and attention, friendly support, encouragement, and emphasizing the positive qualities of a person, thereby instilling confidence and a positive attitude.
For students, this may be the support of a student group, students in the dormitory, teachers capable of extracurricular communication, and leisure time with other students. This is especially important with first-year students, so that they do not perceive the student environment as alien and hostile.
Student psychological services and individual counseling from teachers of psychology can also have a positive role. Engaging in identification mechanisms within the environment, and forming a “sense of coherence” by building a positive assessment of possible strategies to solve a problem situation, helps to develop effective strategies to overcome adverse circumstances.
Stress in the student environment
The first symptoms of mental burnout can be found already in young college students. Consequently, arming them with the means of prevention should be done within the walls of the institute. It is there that a person must realize that:
- Higher education is a special kind of activity that requires great responsibility from a person and many personal energy costs.
- College studies bring situations of defeat and failure, the success of overcoming them which is determined by the presence of internal willingness to solve problems, and the degree to which a person masters strategies to overcome difficulties.
- Shifting responsibility to others and avoiding resolving issues is a non-constructive strategy. Instead, be diligent to mobilize your strengths, make independent decisions, and take responsibility for yourself – these are options for constructive behavior, which should be fully developed and encouraged.
Mental health in the workplace
Setting on professional success and gaining internal satisfaction from it, is one of the main emotional criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the work of any employee.
Ralf Schwarzer, Professor of Psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, says the primary way to prevent the risk of professional burnout and the prerequisite for preserving one’s mental health is the creation of a favorable psychological microclimate. This enhances the motivation of achievement and contributes to the formation of effective strategies for coping with stress.
The availability of emotional empathy and social support in stressful situations is an essential stabilizing factor of mental health. In contrast, an unhealthy environment is characterized by: competition, lack of goodwill, jealousy, and interpersonal conflicts. These are all indicators of the collective psychological unhealthiness leading to the personal psychological problems of its members.
In summary, numerous studies of mental stress and coping strategies have made it possible to establish the existence of interdependencies between: 1. the degree of mental stress, 2. exposure to psychosomatic diseases, and 3. measures of social support.