Students should assess the demands on their time to help stave off the ‘January blues’ when they return to school, college or university this week.
That is the advice of Jane Darougar, executive member of BACP’s Universities and Colleges division and a college counsellor in east London.
Jane says that students, particularly those with exams coming up, should look at the demands on their time and resources and make changes if necessary to help avoid too much stress.
“If your demands meet your resources that is the optimum level,” said Jane. “But if your demands are much higher than your resources it can cause stress.
“What are your demands? What is causing you stress? What is taking up your time and what can go?
“There are students who are the main carers for someone with a disability, and that cannot be changed.
“But there might be something, such as being in a team or in a club, that you can drop for six months coming in to A Levels to reduce the demands.
“If you can’t reduce the demands you need to look at building up your resources instead. That might be better self-care, some sort of relaxation, making sure you are sleeping well, not taking your phone to bed with you. There is a range of things you can do.”
Be kind to yourself
Jane says the return after the Christmas break can be a difficult time for some pupils. But she says it is important to keep them motivated.
“I think the January blues are the biggest issues for students,” she said. “In Sixth Form and FE you do see attendance dropping off.
“Everything feels harder in January. Getting up on cold dark mornings, making your way in through the rain or snow. Christmas feels a long time ago.
“I think it is the same for most people.
“Some stress is a good thing. It is a motivating factor. You have the high-fliers who are on it but if they are too chilled out they don’t tend to knuckle down.
“At the end of the autumn term, it’s a long term and people are very tired. I had a few students who were very ambitious about the work they were going to do in the Christmas break.
“I would never want to discourage people from doing work but it’s about being kind to yourself and being kind to yourself in January is a good message.
“Use motivational techniques to get people feeling that little bit better. Where exams are concerned, it is coming into a big six months and they need to keep the motivation going.
“If they drop too far now it is hard to catch up and get on with revision later in the year, which is when stress and anxiety can kick in.”
To speak to a local counsellor or psychotherapist about stress, search our Therapist directory.