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6 tips for reducing academic stress

Arrière-plan

March 26, 2024 School, Employment and Volunteering

Parents

Par Kariane Turcot

Activities coordinator

Young people are increasingly at risk of developing academic performance anxiety. Part of the reason for this increase is the academic pressure placed on teenagers. 

While schools and the Ministry of Education are working to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, what can be done on a daily basis in the meantime ?

Academic pressure on top of other challenges 

Academic pressure includes expectations of achievement, the pressure of career choices for teenagers, the pressure exerted by parents, family, school and so on.  

Whether or not students experience a difficult academic path, over 50% of teenagers are affected by performance anxiety. 

School pressure has a major impact on performance anxiety. In recent years, teenagers have faced a number of challenges and confronting them has been no easy matter. These include the 2020 pandemic, which had a direct impact on learning methods and led to the rise in distance learning. As a result, performance anxiety among teenagers is also on the rise. In fact, according to research conducted by the Université du Québec à Montréal, nearly 65% of Secondary 1 students suffer from performance anxiety.

Increase in immigration 

Immigration to Quebec has grown significantly. In 2022, Quebec welcomed 68,700 immigrants, about 18,000 more than the previous year. Children and adolescents with an immigrant background face additional challenges that Quebec teenagers do not experience, some of which have an impact on academic pressure include: 

  • Adaptation
  • Language and learning a new language
  • Stress related to immigration
  • Limited resources
  • Discrimination
  • The high expectations from their home community
  • Differences between the education system in their home country
  • Situations of poverty
  • Lack of schooling in one's home country

How to spot performance anxiety? 

Whether teenagers have a immigrant background or not, spotting the signs of anxiety as soon as they appear is essential. Physical signals include:

  • Migraines
  • Digestive problems
  • Tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability and insomnia 

In terms of behavioural signals, you may observe signs like:

  • Avoiding criticism and seeking positive feedback
  • Too much attention to detail
  • The belief that there is no room for error
  • Negative thoughts and disaster scenarios
    • Example: “I don't remember anything,” will lead to “I suck,” then “I'll never get a degree,” or ultimately, “I'm going to end up homeless.” 

Moreover, some of the most alarming signs of performance anxiety include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, crying, etc. 

It is important to be aware of behaviors and habits that increase academic pressure in young people, and to adopt habits to reduce the resulting performance anxiety.

6 steps to help reduce school pressure stress for teens

1. Focus on open communication 

Good communication starts with good listening. Understanding your teenager is the key to unlocking the concerns they have about school.

2. Improve stress and time management

You can teach your teen about stress management techniques. Examples include meditation, breathing techniques, and physical exercise. This can help them better manage academic pressure. In addition, you can help your teen plan their time effectively, for example, by helping them prioritize their tasks. You can also guide them in properly managing their agenda, which is an essential tool for school deadlines. 

3. Encourage a balance between school and personal life

Managing teens' time between personal life activities and studies is essential to reduce academic pressure. Managing their time effectively will come in handy throughout their academic journey. 

4. Value their interests

Encourage your teenagers to pursue the interests they're passionate about. At all costs, avoid denigrating their tastes and telling them what to do or where to put their energy. It's through their interests that they'll learn to discover themselves and develop their own motivation.

5. Give Positive Encouragement

It's important to recognize your teen's successes as well as their efforts, even if they're small. Positive encouragement builds your teen's confidence and decreases the pressure they feel. 

6. Provide academic support

You can research learning resources that are tailored to your teen's needs. There are organizations like Diapason-Jeunesse in Laval, an organization that contributes to academic perseverance for Laval youth aged 12 to 17, who are struggling at school or at risk of dropping out, by offering various programs to develop motivation, self-esteem, autonomy, mutual aid, and commitment.

The importance of appropriate support

Every teenager is unique. That's why we need to tailor our actions to their needs, not ours. It's important to remember that providing adolescents with the right support will considerably ease the pressure they feel throughout their school career. Remember, it's always better to act preventively, rather than once a a negative situation has occurred.

References (in french)

Radio-Canada, La pandémie a accéléré la hausse de l'anxiété chez les adolescents
Radio-Canada, Hausse de l’anxiété de performance chez les adolescents
The Gazette, ‘’Immigration fuels Quebec's biggest population boom in 50 years ’’
The Conversation, ‘’Here’s why immigrant students perform poorly’’
Familiprix, Mieux comprendre l’anxiété de performance
Université de Sherbrooke, L’anxiété de performance
Fondation jeunes en tête, L’anxiété de performance scolaire chez les adolescents-es