Helping students deal with stress


BY PHILIP AUGUSTINE

STRESS is a modern day malady, to which even children are not immune. In fact, it has become part of our everyday lives. From schoolwork to exams, pimples to peer pressure, students face an enormous amount of stress.  

In view of this, the Befrienders KL conducted a seminar recently on Helping Students Cope With Stress for 50 students from 10 secondary schools and colleges in the Klang Valley. 

“Children today are more stressed than ever before. They have so many extra-curricular activities and they face very high expectations from their parents, and society in general,” says International Medical University consultant clinical psychologist and senior lecturer, Paul Jambunathan. 

“There are two types of stress in our lives, good and bad. Stress does not go away but you can learn to cope or live with it,” he adds. 

The seminar was divided into two parts, with Jambunathan talking about coping with stress in the first half, and members of the Befrienders Training Team, Etta Chatterjee and Gangadara Vadivel, facilitating the second session on Dealing With Your Emotions

Participants were treated to Jambunathan's theatrical presentation skills, including some of his amusing but relevant examples and role play.  

“If you learn what stress is, you'll understand what's happening to you because your body tells you when you are stressed,” he says. 

Stress can cause organisational, behavioural, mental, emotional and physical effects, including having low morale, impulsive outbursts, mental blocks, anxiety and an irregular heart rate and breathing, he adds.  

Jambunathan says some common ways in which people combat stress, such as taking pills and overnight remedies like aromatherapy and self-hypnosis, invariably do not affect the main process of stress. 

He gave tips and easy-to-follow steps on how to manage stress. 

Jambunathan believes that understanding stress enables students to develop active stress coping skills. 

He says that developing good interpersonal skills, critical thinking and staying physically healthy help prevent unnecessary stress. 

“Emotional intelligence needs to be developed and should be taught in school as early as possible,” he urges, adding that students who can't cope should seek help from professionals like the Befrienders or talk to someone they trust. 

Similarly, Jambunathan says parents play a significant role in their children's stress level.  

“Children today are being asked to grow up quicker, be smarter and achieve things at a younger age, robbing them of their childhood. On average, parents spend less than 10 minutes a day talking one-to-one with their children,” he says, adding that this causes many children to be dysfunctional. 

Jambunathan, who enjoys snorkelling with his family as a means of relieving stress, believes that children today don't have enough playtime. 

“The amount of information available to kids today is astounding. Seeing all sorts of things in the media and on the Internet is a norm amongst youngsters.”  

A parent himself, Jambunathan does not find the need to send his children for tuition, opting instead to do their homework with them. 

The second half of the seminar reinforced the importance of understanding our emotions better to help manage stress and other conflicts. 

From personal sharing, discussions and role-play activities, participants were exposed to the factors that lead to stress, its warning signs, the difficult emotions that arise, and dealing with problems healthily. More importantly, students were reminded to seek help when the need arises.  

To cope with exams, Jambu- nathan advises students to draw up a time-table and fall into a study routine two months ahead of time. 

This seminar is the first in a series of programmes and activities under the Befrienders Outreach- Suicide Prevention in the Community campaign, launched by Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng last month.  

“Our first programme is with the youth because there is an urgent need to reach out to students in schools and colleges, many of whom feel that no one cares for them,” says Befrienders KL chairman Zilfalila A. Rahman 

Befrienders KL runs 24-hour counselling service hotlines in KL (03–79568144/79568145), Ipoh (05–5477933/55), Malacca (06–2842500) and Penang (04–2815161/1108). 

Befrienders KL will be conducting more seminars for students. For enquiries, call 03–7957 1306 or email: bfrendr@po.jaring.my 

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