Teens and young people

Study stress

Do you find yourself:

  • Worrying about schoolwork all the time?
  • Finding it hard to relax?
  • Doing ridiculous amounts of study and feeling like it is never enough?
  • Stressing out about what it would mean if you fail?
  • Having trouble sleeping?
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless because you feel you can’t live up to other people’s expectations?
  • Hating school subjects that you used to enjoy (or at least tolerate)?
  • Procrastinating and avoiding your homework or assignments?

If you are feeling this way you are not alone. A recent study of year 12 students found that 42% of them were experiencing significant levels of study stress. So what are some of the reasons why study stress may be affecting you?

  • High pressure environment. Some schools (such as selective schools) put a lot of pressure on students to achieve. You get the message that you are letting everyone down if you don’t get excellent results, and the expectation is that you must put in very long hours of study in order to achieve the necessary standard. And there’s a social pressure too. After every exam or assignment everyone asks ‘what did you get?’ and it can be really embarrassing if you haven’t done well.
  • Procrastination cycle. Once you start procrastinating it is easy to get trapped in a cycle of disappointing results and self blame, which only leads to more procrastination.
  • Thinking the worst. ‘If I don’t achieve well, I’ll disappoint everyone.’ ‘What if I fail?’ ‘I’ll never be able to do the things I want to do in my life. My future will be ruined’. These are scary thoughts, and once your mind starts to tell you all the worst case scenarios it can be very hard to maintain your focus and stay on task.

Things you can do to manage study stress

  • Get the basics right. Sleep, exercise and diet – if you are able to live a healthier lifestyle it helps with your concentration and focus.
  • Get organized. It is really helpful to work out a realistic study plan, breaking down each task into manageable goals. (If you struggle with this, it may help to get a teacher, tutor or mentor to help you.)
  • Manage your thoughts. If you notice that your mind is always telling you the worst case scenario, step back and question it. There are some great resources online which can provide a reality check if you are starting to stress out (for example the ‘There’s life after year 12 exams’ campaign from Reach Out)

How a psychologist can help

We work with people to help them to understand their study stress and how to manage it. For example, we work on things like scheduling and time management, perfectionism and procrastination. We also have anxiety management techniques that can help in stressful situations (such as exams).  We want to help you rediscover your love of learning, so that you can take pleasure and pride in your work.

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