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How to handle school stress whilst experiencing mental illness

back to school

It’s that time of the year, when young Australians are heading back to school and university. While we all understand it’s not easy to transition from holiday mode back into school or study, this can be amplified for those currently experiencing mental illness.

With one in four young people currently experiencing a mental health condition there is cause for concern and young Australians agree.

The 2015 Annual Youth Survey by Mission Australia found that young people are most concerned about coping with stress, school or study problems and body image. These top three issues of concern have remained the same since 2013.

This research helps paint the picture and correlation between school stress and young people currently experiencing mental illness.

But it’s not all dire numbers. With the right know-how, it is possible to handle school stress and mental illness successfully.

Try and stay organised

Every year teachers will tell you to stay organised and it’s for a good reason. When you manage your time in advance by keeping a timetable of classes, assignments and exams, you will have more time to prepare and won’t be blindsided by forgetting an important due date. You will also notice a decline in stress as you feel more in control of your time and commitments.

Acknowledge how you are feeling

If or when stress starts to take control of you, it’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. Just because you’re in a class with 30 other students and they all appear to be managing, doesn’t mean your feelings are any less valid.

Devise a plan for when stress strikes

A recent study from Resilient Youth Australia of 4500 year 7 to 12 students, revealed that 34 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys felt constantly under strain and unable to overcome difficulties through emotional intelligence.

More so, the survey found that only 8 per cent of high school students had optimal levels of resilience including good relationships with adults, engagement in school and a sense of empowerment.

With resilience at dangerous levels, it’s vital to devise a plan for when stress strikes or when life knocks you down, so you know how to get back up again.

The plan may include self-care, speaking to guidance counsellors at school, discussing your mental health with a professional, exercise, or even being aware of small activities that nudge you in a positive direction.

Be realistic with your commitments

Whether you are experiencing mental illness or not, extending yourself too far can be a catalyst to stress and anxiety. This is commonly seen in students who undertake part-time work.

Beyondblue states that you can combine school and part-time work with minimal impact on your study if the hours are kept modest. They recommend between 10 and 15 hours per week. But students who work part-time tend to have a greater focus on work than study.

It may be helpful to keep this knowledge in the back of your mind if you find yourself floundering through study and work. Sometimes, taking a step back and reassessing your commitments will enable you to see where you have over extended yourself and what needs to be cut back to reduce stress.

Use your support network

Finally, always use your support network. Some issues are too big to handle on your own and you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. Talk to your school counsellor, a trusted adult, online or phone support services, or open up to a friend.

Connecting with others can make a massive difference when dealing with mental illness or the stressors of school. If you still feel uneasy about your situation you can also consider seeing your GP for a referral to a mental health professional.

There is help available and you don’t need to travel your journey alone.