Tips For Students On How To Manage And Deal With Academic Pressure


In our rapidly changing world, the pressure to excel has become a constant challenge. Unlike in the past, where career options were limited, today's landscape offers a plethora of opportunities. However, amidst this bunch, children often find themselves caught in the relentless pursuit of academic success, sacrificing their childhood joy in the process. While striving for excellence is commendable, failing to manage academic pressure healthily can lead to mental and physical health issues.

At Connector, we spoke with education experts to compile a comprehensive guide for students on effectively managing and coping with academic pressure.

Write Down Your Tasks And Deadline

To manage stress, start by listing all your tasks and deadlines. Create a plan to organise your work and stay on track. This not only helps with schoolwork but also keeps you motivated by knowing when holidays are coming up. Emphasising this, Eloise Briey, Senior Marketing Executive, Swiss International School, says, "A first step would be to have a clear idea of the year’s key dates: exams, deadlines, presentations, etc. Planning that out allows students to visualise their school year ahead of time and keeps them focused on their school work. Additionally, this allows students to see when their holidays or quieter periods are and look forward to them which keeps them motivated. Another strategy would be to create a designated work and study area which is kept tidy and away from distractions."

Learn The Art Of Balance

Mastering the art of balance is crucial at every life stage, especially when instilled from school days. For that, prioritising and planning is vital. Breaking tough tasks into smaller, manageable steps is key to handling academic stress. Start by noting deadlines and assessing task significance. Then, craft a viable schedule for steady progress without feeling overwhelmed. Utilising charts, parental assistance for calendar planning, and trackers can aid kids in balancing school and personal life effectively.

Highlighting the importance of maintaining academic success and personal well-being and sharing some insights, Nicola Upham, Vice Principal, Student Development, Bloom World Academy, says, "To maintain a healthy balance between academic success and personal well-being, it's essential to prioritise self-care and time management. Allocating specific blocks of time for studying, relaxation, socialising, and physical activity maintains a well-rounded routine to create a sustainable lifestyle. But achieving that balance is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness, flexibility, and self-compassion. As teachers, it's important to let the students know that ‘it’s ok to not be ok every day’, and it reminds the students that at times we may need to reflect and recharge."

Sharing her brief insight on this, Kimberly Highland, Marketing Manager, The English College, adds, "Prioritise self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation, and spending time with loved ones. Create a schedule that allocates time for both academic responsibilities and activities that bring you joy and relaxation." 

Break Down Your Work And Keep The Goal Clear

Academic pressure builds when we aim to match others without clarity on our goals. The obsession with being first often lacks a clear purpose. Using visuals to define goals and breaking tasks into smaller parts makes them more manageable, reducing overwhelm. Explaining this further, Nicola Peacock, Assistant Principal at Horizon International School, says"Keeping your ultimate goal in mind, whether that is a place at your preferred university or the satisfaction of getting the results you want, is a must. You can use pictures to help with this, putting pictures up on noticeboards, bedroom walls, inside your school locker or on your fridge can serve as visual reminders of why you are working so hard. Besides, breaking your work and your goals down into smaller chunks can make them more manageable. Instead of visualising your university, what are the steps you will need to take along the way to get there? Develop small, daily habits that give you the impetus to keep going. James Clear in his bestselling book Atomic Habits, tells us, “Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.” He advocates for a focus on our ‘systems’, our daily practices, which act like ‘compound interest’ and lead to success." 

Highlighting the importance of library and academic support services, Kimberly Highland, Marketing Manager, The English College, adds, "Utilise resources such as the library and academic support services. Break down study material into smaller chunks, use active learning techniques like summarising and teaching concepts to others, and practice retrieval through self-testing. Prioritise tasks based on deadlines and importance, and utilise tools such as to-do lists or digital calendars to stay organised."

Focus On Self-Care And Reach Out For Support

While academic achievement holds significance, prioritising self-care and emotional well-being is equally crucial. Kids must maintain a balanced diet, embrace a healthy lifestyle, and engage in at least an hour of physical activity daily. Parents and educators should encourage open communication about emotions and develop a supportive environment where children feel comfortable sharing their concerns. 

Emphasising this, Nicola Upham, Vice Principal of Student Development at Bloom World Academy, adds, "Teaching students self-care techniques and the importance of physical activity to boost mood, reduce stress, and increase energy levels, is a must at schools. By talking openly about our feelings and emotions, teachers and students alike, we create a climate where we reach out to each other for emotional support, which prevents feelings of overwhelm, and we can then revisit goals and values to prioritise activities to make sure they are aligned." 

"It is crucial for kids to prioritise food and sleep. Our bodies and brains can’t function without the right food and sufficient sleep. Sacrificing sleep to study is counterintuitive as our brains can’t retain information as effectively when they are deprived from sleep. Same goes for proper nutrition, eating balanced meals allows our brains to operate at full capacity, something we can’t afford to neglect during exam season," adds, Eloise Briey, Senior Marketing Executive, Swiss International School. 

Start With Meditation And Breathing Exercises 

Many believe meditation and breathing exercises are just for adults, but starting in childhood is beneficial. It helps gain perspective, calms the mind, and manages stress. Meditation clears thoughts, promoting rational and logical thinking. Adding to this, Nicola Peacock, Assistant Principal at Horizon International School, says, "Focusing on breathing helps manage stress and anxiety instantly by supplying oxygen to the brain, connecting emotional and rational thinking. Techniques like lengthening exhale, or box breathing (inhale 4, hold 4, exhale 4, hold 4) work well. Mindfulness exercises on YouTube, like gazing at a flame or mindful stretching, aid relaxation. With all of the above, the key is to build effective daily habits that will reduce the overall burden of academic pressure in the long term. For anyone in a critical situation now and feeling the stress of imminent exams, talk to your school counsellor or a trusted adult as soon as possible so that they can begin to support you without delay."

Sharing some tips on this, Michelle Thomas, Principal/CEO, GEMS Al Barsha National School, adds, "Encourage children to unwind with techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, visualisation, guided imagery, and journaling. These practices offer a pathway to inner peace, helping them navigate stress and foster a sense of calm."

Plan Your Breaks And Studies

One crucial tip for handling exam pressure is to balance study time with breaks. Kids need to allocate equal time for studying and taking breaks. This approach not only aids concentration and learning but also allows them ample time to recharge between study sessions. To this, Nicola Upham, Vice Principal, Student Development, Bloom World Academy, adds, "Planning is essential, but not only the study material, the breaks as well, as we often forget to plan for moments of relaxation which enables our mind to recuperate and be more efficient. Ideally, 45-minute blocks, working in an environment where distractions are avoidable, ensures that time spent revising or completing coursework is productive and avoids mental fatigue. Remaining disciplined and identifying priorities so that students devote the right amount of time to study will also help them feel more prepared and satisfied."

Giving her advice on this, Michelle Thomas, Principal/CEO, GEMS Al Barsha National School, says, "Develop a practical study plan, engage actively with material through techniques like, summarising and note-taking, and break tasks into smaller parts. Prioritise, test yourself regularly and manage time wisely with breaks. Consistent study is key, it is best to avoid last-minute work. Even if you are stressed, don't hesitate to seek assistance from teachers or peers when needed. Success lies in diligence and effective time management." 

Form A Study Group

Talk with your friends and form a study group. Studying together lets you help each other out and clear up any doubts you might have. Adding more to this, Eloise Briey, Senior Marketing Executive, Swiss International School, says, "One of the many ways to manage coursework could be to join or create a study group with classmates. The key benefit of this is that discussing ideas out loud can help consolidate information and working together helps clarify any unclear material." 

Learn To Say No

Learning to say no is vital, even for kids. It allows you to prioritise your well-being and balance academics and personal life effectively. Saying no to things you are not interested in or don't have enough bandwidth to compensate helps maintain a healthy balance between success in school and overall happiness.

Sharing her tips and advice on this, Michelle Thomas, Principal/CEO, GEMS Al Barsha National School, adds, "Establish clear boundaries between school and personal life. Prioritise self-care, including exercise and hobbies. Don't be afraid to say no to avoid overloading yourself. Lastly, only engage in activities that bring joy and relaxation."

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