What Resources Help Students Manage Academic Pressure?

    Authored By

    Counselor Brief

    What Resources Help Students Manage Academic Pressure?

    In the quest to alleviate academic pressure, we've gathered insights from psychologists and educators who understand the challenges students face. From embracing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to tackle procrastination to watching 'Spaceship You' for well-being tips, discover the top five resources these professionals recommend.

    • Embrace ACT to Tackle Procrastination
    • Utilize On-Campus Counseling Services
    • Incorporate Breaks and Rewards
    • Balance Study with Physical Activity
    • Watch 'Spaceship You' for Well-being Tips

    Embrace ACT to Tackle Procrastination

    As a seasoned senior lecturer working with students at all higher education (HE) levels, I’ve noticed academic pressure as one of the old nemeses of many students. One resource, or rather a technique, that I find very effective and often recommend is an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach to tackling procrastination, which is a common side-effect of academic pressure.

    Students often find themselves in a vicious cycle of delaying tasks due to the stress and anxiety associated with their assignments, only to then risk worse results due to the procrastination itself, or even non-submissions.

    The technique is quite straightforward but very impactful. It includes three steps. First, mindful pause. When you catch yourself procrastinating, the first step is to pause mindfully. This means taking a moment to consciously acknowledge your current thoughts and feelings. It's like saying, "Okay, brain, I see what you're doing here."

    Second, accept and defuse. Next, you accept these thoughts and feelings without judgment. It's not about fighting them; it's about recognizing them as fleeting experiences. This step often involves 'defusion' techniques, which help you to detach from unhelpful thoughts. You can do this by saying something like 'I am having the thought that I should procrastinate,' and then add yet more distance with 'I’m noticing I’m having a thought that I should procrastinate.' This step is very powerful because it allows us to create some distance between the impulse to procrastinate and the action of going for it. Within this space lies the freedom to make the choice to continue the work based on what matters to you, which has to do with step 3 below.

    Third and final, act based on values. You make a conscious decision to act based on your values (e.g., the importance of completing your course) rather than your immediate feelings (the impulse to procrastinate). This could mean focusing on why completing the task is important to you—maybe it aligns with your goal of excelling in your studies or your value of being a committed student.

    As simple as it may seem, this approach is widely used in psychotherapeutic work and is backed by ACT research showing that procrastination is linked to psychological inflexibility. So, by following these steps, students can enhance their psychological flexibility, making them more resilient to the pressures of academia.

    Raffaello Antonino
    Raffaello AntoninoCounselling Psychologist & Clinical Director, Therapy Central LLP

    Utilize On-Campus Counseling Services

    One valuable resource I often recommend for students grappling with academic pressure is the counseling services offered by their educational institution. Universities usually have counseling centers staffed with professionals who specialize in supporting students through various challenges, including academic stress.

    These counselors provide a safe space to discuss feelings of overwhelm, stress-management techniques, time-management strategies, and coping mechanisms tailored to individual needs. Additionally, they often offer workshops or group sessions focusing on academic stress specifically, providing a supportive community where students can share experiences and learn from one another.

    Rebbeca Lahann, Psy.D.
    Rebbeca Lahann, Psy.D.Psychologist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Spectrum Psychology and Wellness

    Incorporate Breaks and Rewards

    Did you know that 45 minutes of work should correspond to a 10-minute break? Building a routine that includes regular breaks, exercise, and sufficient sleep plays a pivotal role in managing pressure and maintaining a healthy balance. Also, make sure you create a reward system for yourself. Actively celebrate your successes so you can set your goals.

    Zoe FragouOrganizational Psychologist, Zoe Fragou

    Balance Study with Physical Activity

    I recommend students take breaks. Students often tell me that once the examination period starts, they focus only on studying and don't do anything else. They believe they have so much to do that there's no time for anything else.

    But that's wrong. If you spend the whole day just studying, you'll procrastinate more, and you'll be more stressed. Looking ahead to a full day of studying is demotivating and anxiety-inducing.

    Now, a break doesn't mean that you sit on your phone for an hour. It means moving your body and socializing. While studying, you sit all the time. That's not good for our brains. Take a walk with a friend, go to the gym, or visit a park.

    Stopping the activities you'd do before the examination period will elevate the pressure you feel because it consumes your whole life. It'll feel like the most important thing in your life. And the reality is, it's not. By doing other things besides studying, you won't think about the exams all the time. It will reduce the pressure you feel.

    Effective breaks will increase productivity, benefit your mental health, and will get you better results. So don't fill your day only with dull studying. Fill your day with occasional breaks. Fill those breaks with things you enjoy. And set aside time for deep, focused studying. That's how you alleviate the pressure.

    Heythem Naji
    Heythem NajiPsychologist, heythemnaji.com

    Watch 'Spaceship You' for Well-being Tips

    One of my favorite videos to show students is ' Spaceship You ' by CGP Grey. Created during the lockdown, it describes various strategies for protecting your physical and mental health and arranging your environment to increase productivity. Couched in terms of being alone on a spaceship, it creates a lovely analogy that students can easily relate to while presenting well-researched science. By encouraging students to look after themselves, they are often more equipped to deal with external pressures, too.

    Beverly Gearreald
    Beverly GearrealdOwner, Live Fearless Mentoring