In a bid to improve upon the total wellbeing of students, the UGBS Mentoring and Students’ Services Unit has designed a weekly forum for students, dubbed ‘Beyond the Curriculum’. The third in the series was a talk on ‘Handling Academic Stress’ and was held on Friday 20th October, 2017, at the R.S. Amegashie Auditorium.
The speaker for the occasion, Dr. Emmanuel Asampong from the School of Public Health, University of Ghana, started by stating that stress can never be avoided but can only be manged. He operationally defined stress as “the mental, physical, emotional, and behavioural reactions to any perceived demands or threats”. Dr. Asampong explained that when situations seem threatening to people, their bodies react quickly to supply protection by preparing to take action. ‘This physiological reaction is known as the "fight or flight" response’, he added.
On the causes of stress, the following were identified: situations that have strong demands and are imminent, life transitions, timing, ambiguity, desirability and controllability. Furthermore, he mentioned that there are certain activities that when not properly managed, can steal time from students, leaving them stressed out. Some of these activities include engaging the telephone and visitors, dealing with group members, meetings, and managing rooms among others. Students were also reminded of some common stressors that they are usually exposed to. One of them is a change in lifestyle with respect to the achievement of emotional independence from family as well as choosing and preparing for a career. The second stressor identified was grades. According to Dr. Asampong, what makes this a major challenge is the fact that many students are more concerned about their grades rather than what they are learning. Course overload and new intimate relationships were identified as other factors that steal students’ time.
Dr. Asampong stated however that some level of stress drives the individual towards the attainment of goals. As part of the effects of stress, he mentioned diabetes, asthma, muscle ache and pains, high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression, among others. Dr. Asampong concluded his talk by suggesting some measures to help reduce the stress of students. First and foremost, he encouraged them to find a support system. He also reiterated the need to change attitudes that lead to stress. He further advised them to be realistic and set practical goals for dealing with situations and solving problems. In addition, students were advised to get organised and take charge of situations as well as develop schedules and establish priorities. There was a question and answer section where students’ questions were answered.
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