Creative learning techniques to reduce academic stress

We’ve all experienced stress at some point in our lives, but it’s not particularly easy to describe. If stress becomes too much to manage, it can have a big impact on our mental health or make existing mental health problems feel harder to cope with. Stress might feel different to you than it does to someone else. There are many different ways that stress manifests in our lives or behaviour. This blog has some great tips to help students manage the effects of academic stress.

Understanding academic stress

Feeling stressed, worried, or under pressure about your academic performance can be difficult to manage. There’s more to it than feeling nervous on the day of an exam. Academic stress can relate to exams, coursework, or even learning in general. It can be triggered by a lack of confidence in your abilities or feeling like you’re under a lot of pressure.

There are things that can help – it’s about finding what’s right for you. If you’re struggling to cope, you’re not alone. We’re here to share some creative learning techniques to make the process a little less intimidating and lots more fun!

What causes academic stress?

Navigating school or college can be stressful on its own, but there are some other things that might cause you to feel worse, such as:

  • Feeling underprepared: If you’ve left your revision too late or you’ve been procrastinating when it comes to completing coursework, looming deadlines and exams can feel overwhelming.
  • Worrying about your performance: It can be disheartening if you don’t feel like you are achieving the goals you have set for yourself, which can leave you feeling unmotivated.
  • Dealing with pressure: You may feel as though other people are putting you under pressure, like your parents, carers or teachers. You might even be putting pressure on yourself to achieve certain grades or results.
  • Comparing yourself to others: When you’re surrounded by your peers, it’s easy to start comparing yourself to how they are performing. This can make you feel negatively about yourself or become jealous.
  • Worrying about the future: Thinking about the bigger picture can be scary. Not everyone knows what they want to do next. You may be worried about getting into university or finding a job.
  • Personal challenges: Our normal lives can impact our academic performance. If you are having difficulties at home or you’re arguing with a friend or partner, it can be distracting.
  • Mental health and wellbeing: When you’re feeling down, academic stress can seem more challenging to deal with. It can be hard to find the motivation to overcome stress if you’re not in the positive headspace.

How can I reduce academic stress?

So how do we manage all this stress while trying to focus on work? First, we need to accept stress for what it is and look at it from a new perspective. Stress means that you care. It shows that you want to finish your school year on a high!

By changing your mindset, you can begin to relax and push forward. Stress Management Society, the organisation behind Stress Awareness Month 2024, details the small actions to take in combating stress and staying focused. The list goes…

1. Connecting

The benefit of being in an academic environment like a school or college is that you are not alone! There are plenty of people going through the same thing as you. They may even share the same fears or know something that could help you out. Remember to check in on your friends and they’ll check back on you. A good chat is good to lower stress! Of course, there is a fine line between connecting and distracting, so be mindful of your time and others.

2. Sleep

Working through the night has been glorified as a sign that you are working hard but truthfully, it’s not even productive. Having the time to sleep and ‘reset’ will increase your chances of learning what you need. Your brain will be more alert and able to proves the information and you’ll feel much more energetic.

3. Move

Don’t get stuck at the desk, get moving! Ever noticed that yourself feeling twitchy or on edge when you’re feeling worried? Stress can trigger adrenaline so by getting out and spending some of that anxious energy, you can maintain focused, rather than draining yourself at the desk. This can be anything from walking around the room or outside, doing exercises, chores, or some star jumps on the spot. Do it how you want to!

4. Nature

Surrounding yourself with nature is a great way to take yourself away from everything and clam down. It’s less about the location and more about giving yourself the headspace to reflect, relax and refocus. Even if you can’t get to a park, going for a walk around the block can be more beneficial to you than staying inside. Removing yourself from an environment that you feel stressed in can change your mindset almost instantly.

5. Breathe

You’re already doing it, you’re a natural! Taking slow, deep breaths in heightened moments of stress can help relieve that tension in your body. The benefit of this coping mechanism is it can be done at any time. Whether you’re revising at home or you’re in class, pause and take a breath.

6. Mindfulness

Learning to be in the moment, fully aware of yourself and your emotions, helps to calm the mind. Focus on your surroundings, your senses, and you existing in the moment. You can also use a bullet journal to help increase mindfulness. If you’d like to find out how to do this, you can read more here.

Don’t let stress take away your success!

Following these simple exercises, and taking everything step by step, will help you achieve any academic goals. If you’re still feeling worried, it might be time to change the way you are approaching learning. It’s time to get creative and start thinking outside the box!

Our book, Smarten Your Study, is full of simple and fun ideas to enhance independent learning and revision so you can you build positive study habits.

Our aim is to help you get into the right mindset to prepare for SATS/mocks/exams or complete vital coursework. There are lots of tools and techniques which help to make the boring stuff fun, the hard stuff easier and turn the ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can’!

By having a little more fun, you will ultimately build up resilience, relieve stress and achieve your academic goals!

For more information on this topic

Listen to our ‘S for Stress Awareness | Reduce Stress and Make Learning Fun’ podcast episode.

Z to A of Life Skills Podcast with Mark and Jules Kennedy.

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