Philippine Christian Gospel School
Junquera St., Brgy. San Antonio, Cebu City, 6000 Philippines
A Guide to a Healthy Dose of Stress for Students
As requirement for English for Academic and Professional Purposes
Second Semester – School Year 2018-2019
Wayne Matthew A. Dayata
Ms. Anie M. Paujana
Since the signing of the K+12 program into law by President Benigno Aquino III on May 15, 2013 as Republic Act 10533 (Sobel and Delgado, 2013), the country’s high school education has been extended by two years, giving students four different strands to choose from in order to be more equipped and prepared for college and work (GOVPH, 2018). Simultaneously, the entire education system is also incorporating the output-based learning style where students do various tasks from written to practical works, giving them a wider and more realistic learning experience compared to the old system.
Students go to school every day mainly to learn and accommodate new information from the teachers and resources around there, as well as to train themselves in becoming independent and ready for greater responsibilities as they grow into adults. Moreover, American educational philosophers and sociologists LeCompte and deMarrais also pointed out in their works that the four major processes of schooling include “intellectual purposes such as the development of mathematical and reading skills, political purposes such as the assimilation of immigrants, economic purposes such as job preparation; and social purposes such as the development of social and moral responsibility” (Stemler, 2012, para. 5).
These details make students think that school is an effective area for students to prepare for all the above goals and fulfill the purpose of education; however, with the increasing standards and levels of demand for outputs from the teachers and students to cope with, this kind of education itself is becoming an issue not to the ones teaching or giving, but rather to the ones receiving it.
Learning does not take place only in classrooms where teachers discuss their lessons to students at their seats throughout the day. At times, assignments may be given to the students to work at home for the core purpose of increasing their practical skills and other different qualities such as creativity and critical thinking, especially for those that require practice such as Math, Science and even Language subjects. Assignments are also helpful for students in experimenting for and discovering new possibilities and preparing them for various exams and future occupations (Importance of Assignments at the School and College Level, 2014).
However, it is now evident that most of the high school students are struggling with the heavy load of assignments, projects and school works being given to them. Making them unable to fully experience the perks of education in an enjoyable way but by suffering the uneasy way. Worse, some students may even consider breaking down their interests and hobbies by not doing them, or even their relationships with families and friends, just for compensating for the time needed to complete their outputs by isolating in their rooms during the entire night.
A recently conducted survey by the Senior High School students of Philippine Christian Gospel School showed that at least 85 percent of their Senior High School students experienced great changes in their behaviors physically, mentally, socially and emotionally as they faced increased amounts of workload with a very limited time allotted that costed them unusual changes in their activities mentioned earlier. Moreover, their class attendance sheets also indicate several absences of some students due to sickness or the acquisition of time for the completion of their projects.
These changes are often known as stress, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated issues in modern life. It is everything a person feels as the result of how the body reacts to certain internal or external demands (Hansen, 2014), with each student responding differently even if they are facing identical demands. This means that having these ignored or dismissed is wrong for any student or faculty member to do so, for others are not experiencing the same amount of stress.
The leading cause of stress, as widely known by most students and their parents, is that they constantly face large amounts of school works that consumed their energy and their personal time, making their body work harder than normal. However, the issue does not stop there: some of the students have their own issues in life, which add up the levels of stress by the increase of their responsibilities that make the effects more devastating on them. These causes include being alone unsupported by anyone within the family either by distance or by issues in their relationship. Common problems in school like bullying, constant nuisance in classrooms, and labels by teachers for any particular reason (YoungMindsUk, 2017) should not be ignored in this list, for all of these may disrupt the learning process and efficiency of the students, making them harder to deal with their tasks due to the constant discouragement and isolation they are experiencing everywhere in their lives.
Although it is essential for students to possess some stress in order to produce training adaptions, learn new information, and do works that require high levels of creativity, many students are no longer possessing that healthy dose of stress. These are the kinds of stress that humans are designed to adopt, but it eventually becomes a disease if it becomes heavy and persistent (Asprey, 2012), and left ignored despite the arise of the symptoms, which is now happening around the school and the community.
The effects of stress can be massive that it could be felt by students in four varieties. First, the cognitive symptoms include having memory problems, poor judgment, constant anxiety, and the inability to concentrate in class and at home; second, the emotional symptoms include having shortened temper, sense of loneliness, rapid moodiness, and the inability to relax; third, the physical symptoms include having digestive disorders, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, aches and pains, frequent colds, and dizziness; lastly, the behavioral symptoms include having the desire to either eat more or less food during meals, and sleeping too much or too little every day (Aspery, 2012).
According to a study by Carleton University, a college institution in Japan, the following are the obvious signs that may alert people about the excessive stress levels that are built up in a certain student: observing that he or she has increased absences from class, missed assignments and tasks, become more aggressive or emotional, participated less in class and experienced loneliness by choice (2009). Students seen performing any of those actions should be assisted professionally or by counselors before they enter depression, a series of traumatic experiences that affects that student emotionally and many parts of the body a level deeper than those caused by stress.
In addition to that, some students may have the desire to consume psychotropic drugs and alcohol as a getaway from those issues, as Addiction Resource (2018) noted that the rate of abuse of drugs and alcohol by college students worldwide rose from 34% in 2006 to 43% as of 2016. These are clearly not the right choices those students made, however, it is the emotions that drive them into this path of substance addiction.
In order to resolve those issues in mind and establish better capacities for a student, the first step and perhaps the hardest among all steps in managing one’s stress is to recognize, detect, and accept that it is occurring in his or her body. Here, one must give extra attention to the fact that once his or her body becomes conditioned to respond in a certain way, it will be harder for the person to change that response (Asprey, 2012) or to apply any of the succeeding steps discussed in the remainder of the article.
Next, it is essential to seek help from trusted friends and people. Voicing out to others is a need for others to be aware of one’s situation so that they may comfort him or her and find ways to calm down, meditate, and reorganize themselves together. Being in a support group is always better than working alone as there are more mind working together, making the sharing of ideas and insights possible towards one another. One may discuss and adjust his or her goals in life as they might be too much for the person to handle, causing the pressure that erupted the stress levels in him or her.
Then, as students know that the more negative thoughts they keep in their mind, the more devastated and discouraged they feel in their lives; so simply do the opposite! Think positively, and keep things in perspective, because having a positive attitude not only does give a sense of hope and determination; but approaching things from a different perspective also leads to the discovery of the other parts of the issue, the effective solution and the lesson behind it.
For instance, the stress of dealing with groupmates who do not contribute properly can be reframed into a positive learning experience for all the members, which can be done by treating the issue in a good way through being patient and giving step-by-step motivational advices. This encourages each member of the group to aim for a better output and not giving up on themselves until everything succeeds.
After that, he or she should now consider making changes to his or her lifestyle, from having a healthy diet and regular exercise to gaining enough rest and sleep, and none of those components should be ignored. There may be nutrients that the body is missing that keeps the student from focusing in their tasks. For instance, a person deficient in iron leads to Anemia, a disorder that weakens his or her learning abilities; while a person deficient in B12 makes him or her easily tired, and therefore loses focus and concentration in life. Hansen (2014) mentioned in her article that both caffeine and sugar offer temporary solutions towards stress, but when repeatedly used, it may lead to poor sleeping habits and increased fatigue, the negative long-term effects of those substances in the body.
Even when a person gets stressed, a balanced diet containing the adequate amount of each macronutrient (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and water) as well as the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) should still be observed throughout his or her meals; that is because they are all important in stabilizing his or her emotions and optimizing energy levels that allow him or her to continue working normally. Food supplements are not the best alternatives for they sometimes oversupply a person with a certain substance and making him or her forget the others to balance the diet.
The next component of a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a regular exercise. There is no specific plan as to how long should a person exercise at a certain period and how many times should it be repeated within the day; for as long as the person does it consistently without tiring his or her body. This makes the person physically active as that energized body effectively helps him or her in responding to things quickly and have a better presence of mind every time he or she goes back to work.
The principle of adaptation in exercise (as cited from Gaal, 2012) stated that “overtime the body becomes accustomed to exercising at a given level; this adaptation results in improved efficiency, less effort and less muscle breakdown at that level” (para. 6). Therefore, for a person to reach new capabilities at work, he or she should gradually increase the duration and intensity of the workout; in addition, the principle of overload warns people that any demanding exercise adapted too soon risks injury without the person mastering the lighter and shorter attempts of the exercises prior to these.
It is a good idea for people to exercise in groups rather than doing it alone, for aside from being able to socialize with people, each member can increase his or her morale as they easily feel protected and motivated together as a group. Researches from the American Osteopathic Association (2017) has determined that group exercise participants showed significant improvements in various life measures (12.6% mentally, 24.8% physically, and 26% emotionally). Moreover, they also reported a notable 26.2 percent decrease in perceived stress levels after the workouts.
The last component of a healthy lifestyle is gaining enough hours of sleep and rest. With the increasing demands of studying and project submissions , and with the possible temptation to stare at their phones or gadgets at night, many students get far less amounts of sleep than they should. Sleep should not be neglected in the lives if students for it possess several important benefits: John Peever and Brian Murray (2015) , directors of the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory at the University of Toronto and sleep laboratory at the Sunnybrook Health Center respectively, said that sleeping “reenergizes the body’s cells, clear waste from the brain, and support learning and memory” (para. 2). It is also responsible in regulating mood, appetite, and sexual desires.
The way chronic stress affects one’s sleep is that when he or she experienced physical, psychological, real or imagined threats, the body’s hormonal stress response triggers, leading to the release of cortisol in the endocrine system, a hormone that enables him or her to either face or run from a present danger (also known as the “fight or flight” response). This could last for a long period of time that keeps the person from sleeping well; whereas a healthy stress response follows these steps but follows by a rapid decrease in cortisol right after the stressful event has occurred, bringing the body back to its normal resting state (Scott, 2018). These responses are controlled by negative feedback loops directed by the pituitary and adrenal glands of the endocrine system.
To prevent this poorer quality and shorter duration of sleep, a student may do some strategies and activities that reduce emotional avoidance like having quiet times and regular devotions; also, avoid activities that are energetic, emotional, or brain-stimulating right before bedtime. Furthermore, he or she should make sure to put away his or her phones and other gadgets away from his or her area such that he or she will not be distracted by the ringtones or have the temptation to check for notifications at midnight to prevent unnecessary stressors for the body. Applying these changes every night often lower stress hormones and can help him or her sleep more easily and soundly.
One way to take some rests at the middle of a student’s working time especially when he or she feels uncomfortable or tense is to perform the Pranayama Yoga Breathing, a series of breathing maneuvers that could easily calm him or her down during tough situations. As the inventor of the technique Hatha Yoga Pradipika (As cited from Asprey, 2012) noted that the breathing rate affects the steadiness of the mind, she suggested that people should learn how to breathe with proper control for the mind to follow through the breathing pace and absorb the oxygen as naturally and relaxingly as possible.
Instead of sucking in air using the intercoastal muscles of the chest (known as high breathing), one shall rather breathe into his or stomach and with his or her diaphragm (known as low breathing or belly breathing) (Asprey, 2012). The best timings for that is breathing in to the diaphragm for
And for the last and the most important step, the person should improve his or her time management skills regardless of the items that are tasked to do. This is a skill that majority of the students overlooked at but are not conscious of doing so.
Balancing health, work and social life
Addiction Resource. (2018, August 28). Alcohol and Drug Abuse in College – Substance Addiction Statistics. Retrieved from https://addictionresource.com/addiction/college/
American Osteopathic Association. (2017, October 30). Group exercise improves quality of life, reduces stress far more than individual work outs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171030092917.htm
Asprey, D. (2012, June 14). 6 Ways to Hack Your Nervous System to Consciously Manage Stress [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blog.bulletproof.com/hack-stress/
Carleton University. (2009, March 31). Coping with Crisis. Retrieved from https://carleton.ca/studentaffairs/care-report/coping-with-crisis/
Gaal, M. (2012, August 28). 7 Principles of Exercise and Sport Training. Retrieved from https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/News/Blogs/Multisport-Lab/2012/August/28/7-Principles-of-Exercise-and-Sport-Training
GOVPH. (2018, September 27). The K to 12 Basic Education Program. Retrieved from https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/k-12/
Hansen, F. (2014, March 17). Coping with Stress at School. Retrieved from https://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/coping-with-stress-at-school/
Importance of Assignments at the School and College Level. (2015, February 04). Retrieved from http://www.aoneessays.net/importance-of-assignments-at-the-school-and-college-level
Scott, E. (2018, December 13) The Relationship Between Sleep and Stress. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/relationship-between-stress-and-sleep-3144945
Sobel, L., & Delgado, M. (2013, May 29). President Aquino Signs K-12 Program into Law. Retrieved from http://teachforthephilippines.org/our_press/president-aquino-signs-k12-into-law/
Stemler, S. (2012, February 5). Purpose of School | Philosophical. Retrieved from http://www.purposeofschool.com/philosophical/
YoungMindsUk. (2017, April 13). Problems at School. Retrieved from https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/problems-at-school/