6 stress-busting tips for students

This year has been hard on young people, especially students. As the year draws to a close and exams loom, these tactics can help them stay positive.

When students across the country began the 2020 school year, none could have imagined the upheaval that lay ahead.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned school routine upside down and it’s been a trying time as kids have had to deal with remote learning, lockdowns and worries about keeping up with classes, assessments and exams.

Kids Helpline saw a 24 per cent rise in demand from young people for its mental health and wellbeing counselling between March and July.

“As the community battles coronavirus, we have seen firsthand the repercussions that the pandemic is having on both the mental health and safety of the nation’s youngest generations,” says Tracy Adams, chief executive of yourtown, which provides the Kids Helpline service.

So how can students try to help themselves when the pressure gets a little too much?

1. Take a breath

SKY (sudarshan kriya yoga) breathing meditation uses different inhalation techniques to improve relaxation and stress management.

Ujjayi or “victorious breath” is a slow breathing technique (two to four breaths a minute) where you are conscious of the sensation of your breath touching the throat.

It is meant to aid physical and mental calmness with alertness.

Bhastrika or “bellows breath” is another SKY technique where air is rapidly inhaled and forcefully exhaled at a rate of 30 breaths a minute, and has been shown to decrease anxiety and negative effect.

2. Eat well to boost mood

A healthy diet is not only good for general wellbeing, it may also boost people’s mood, according to an analysis of responses from almost 46,000 people.

In a 2013 panel discussion, Canadian scientists reported vitamin and mineral supplements may help provide the mental energy to help manage stress, enhance mood, and reduce fatigue, while US researchers identified vitamins B and D, as well as ginkgo biloba and Omega 3 as being known to improve mood.

While supplements can help top up for certain vitamins and minerals, generally most people can get the amount they need from a healthy, balanced diet.

“Make sure you have plenty of fresh seasonal food,” says Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute dietitian Amy Castelli.

3. Step outside to feel the sunshine

As spring arrives there’s a better chance of grabbing some sunshine and sunlight makes us feel better.

Research shows that sunlight helps boost serotonin levels – a chemical in our brains that lifts our mood.

4. Play a game

Psychologist Dr Tim Sharp says board games are a good way to relieve stress and relax.

“Old-style games encourage people to slow down, reflect and appreciate things they might have lost sight of,” says the positive psychology expert.

“And they bring a sense of connection. If you play Scrabble, for example, you sit with someone, talk and you’re present and happiness can come with being present with another person.”

5. Get off the screen and go green

Swapping time in front a screen for a little outdoor activity gives not only your mental health a boost, but also improves academic performance, according to an Aussie review of 186 studies from around the world.

The review observed those who spent excessive time watching TV, computers or playing video games experienced increased levels of mental illness, poorer cognitive functioning and poorer academic achievement, while time spent in the natural environment was associated with favourable psychological outcomes and superior school performance.

And you don’t have to be outdoors for long to reap mental benefits – US research found just five minutes of exercise in a park, on a nature trail, or even just working in your garden would benefit mental health.

6. Get help if you feel lonely

Earlier this year, ReachOut youth mental health service reported that 10 people were contacting them for help every minute, with loneliness being a main worry.

“You can come to ReachOut.com any time of the day or night, to find help and to connect to an online support crew on our peer-support forums,” says ReachOut chief executive Ashley de Silva.

“This is a supportive and anonymous space where you can hear from young people who care about what’s happening for you because they’ve been there too.”

Written by Sarah Marinos