Counselling Department, Immanuel College
Academic Stress, Depression and Anxiety
College students are at increased risk of mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given protective measures like, city lockdown, social distancing, closing Institutions will reduce interpersonal interactions with their friends/peers and teachers. However, availability of digital technologies can virtually take advantage to keep in touch with teachers. Delaying help-seeking may exacerbate mental health problems therefore; support is needed from family, friends, and professionals. The academic pressure creates keep more stress on the student’s life and get depressed and become inadequate in their studies. A significant transition takes place where students experience many new ways of learning through online classes, alternate ways of thinking, learning new mechanism, a new environment, and a new academic challenge. The responds to COVID-19 problems and challenges vary on individual’s personality. Some students may tend to ignore or hide their symptoms because of social or academic pressures. In the midst of students attending online classes their teachers or parents, may not recognize the warning signs they might be facing. Stress, anxiety, and depression are linked to several risk factors; academic pressure stemming from factors, including exams and study load. As academic stress increases, students become more susceptible to symptoms of depression. In this situation a college student can take practical steps to lower his or her stress. Whatever the challenges, the depression can be cured, broken life can be restored and academic pressures can be overcome.
Psychological Problems Encountered by the Students during COVID-19
Warning signs that may signal distress in a student are: Emotional distress, anxiety, depression, anger, isolation, difficulty adjusting, unusually high stress level, suspected drug or alcohol abuse, disruptive behavior, peer conflict, fatigue or social withdrawal. Aggressive behavior to self or others, inability to care for self, indications of self-destructive thought, a significant change of behavior. Feeling inferior to others, not able to think properly, financial problems, irritable, angry, sad and depressed for minor reasons, feel useless and incompetent, and feel life is not worth living, disturbed sleep, lack of appetite.
Severe or chronic depression usually requires professional help. Signs include: feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness, deep sadness, inability to experience joy, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory and decision making, fatigue, social withdrawal, problems sleeping and eating. All these problems affect students in their studies which need to be taken care of from various sources.
Unproductive Coping Strategies
• Withdrawing from other people and isolating form others is a common reaction to problem. It is a way of avoiding being hurt again by hiding from others what the student may feel is their own inadequacy. The problem is that this leaves no support.
• Substance abuse, whether alcohol or other drugs, is another coping strategy commonly used among college students especially among the boys, to escape from problems, temporarily alleviating stress by self-medicating. Unfortunately; when you come down or sober up, the problems are still there.
• Acting aggressively towards other people, either verbally or physically, is another negative way which might attempt to deal with stressful situations and feelings. Hurting others only creates further problems, like guilt and isolation.
• Suicidal thoughts, which may lead to suicide attempts is another destructive way to cope with personal crisis. If any person is thinking of suicide that means he or she may have experienced a loss of a relationship, self-esteem, or status, such as failing their classes. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are efforts to cope by permanently escaping a temporary problem. The danger in using ineffective coping strategies to deal with stress is that they can become habitual, even addictive or fatal. They can become a new problem, adding their weight to the balancing act. They never really help resolve the original problem.
How to Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety?
The challenges student faced make one feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings make some students give up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and typically do not accurately reflect the situation. However, these problems can be overcome by setting different goals in life and adopting a habit of practicing everyday with the help of God.
Goals to Help Reduce Academic Pressures and Stress for Students:
• Set realistic goals and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
• Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
• Try to be around other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
• Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
• Mild exercise, a ballgame, or participating in religious, social, or other activities.
• Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
• Remember, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking and will disappear as your stress responds to action
• Share your problems to a counsellor and let your family and friends help you, (Debbi, Virgenia).
Students should be aware of negatives thoughts and find ways to cope with crisis in a positive way. Look for coping strategies when you face stress, “Explore and clarify your feelings, Identify and take control of your thoughts, Get support by communicating your thoughts and feelings about the problem to someone you trust.” Being a college student can be a difficult balancing act especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is easy to get weighed down with the pressures of academics, social life, and choosing a major and career. If personal problems are piled on top of these pressures, you can feel overwhelmed and lose your balance.
Mental Healing: God our Physician
When we are caught in our anxiety, we fail to internalize that God is the creator and sustainer of universe. We rely on our own insufficient power to do the impossible; and we forget that with God all things are possible. Even in the darkest hour God assures us his presence and protection upon us. As King David said; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; you rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4. Amidst all despair, doubt, frustration, and hopelessness, Jesus Christ offers to you another view of life; He says; “I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Being moody and despondent on a temporary basis is a natural part of every personality. However, do not allow your deep and despondent moods to control your very being.
As fog veils a beautiful meadow, so depression clouds life itself; existence becomes dreary and dark. It has been described as “darkness visible.” You may be tempted to blame yourself unduly for all the things that have gone wrong. You may want to punish yourself and others for the deep personal problems which you encounter. Look to God he is the source of all your needs. The song by Andrew Peterson touches us when we feel the silence of God.
“It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.”
In our life’s struggle, God seems silence when we need him the most, but remember he is always around you listening to your innermost cry what others may not understand. Thus Psalmist assures of God’s presence even in the ocean, “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters and your footsteps were not known.” Psalm 77:19.
May be you are going through a lonely path, low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to rise your way, view at from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Listen to what God is saying-although God may seem silent regarding a specific request or petition; remember that He is always in a constant state of communicating with you.
Oswald Chambers says; “When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible…with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.”
The stillness of God is his way of strengthening us, for he has promised that nothing that comes against us will ever stop his purpose for our life.