Main Challenges Facing Students Today
An excerpt from Mindfulness for students: The secret to student wellbeing? by Lachlan Brown
So why exactly is there so much more anxiety amongst students of all age groups today?
There is no one answer for this, and the problem can be found by investigating the most pressing concerns that students have to deal with.
Some of the major problems stressing students out include:
Eco-anxiety, also known as climate depression, is a growing condition of anxiety caused by fears and worries related to climate change.
Young people today have grown up with the reality of climate change and the fear that not enough is being done to stop or reverse it.
According to one 18-year-old student from Alabama, she feels that climate change had become an inevitable part of her life.
“I feel like in my peer group, you just go right from talking about polar bears dying to ‘Did you see what Maya posted on Snapchat?’ Nobody has a filter to adjust. It’s like, the ice caps are melting and my hypothetical children will never see them, but I also have a calculus test tomorrow.”
More psychiatrists are observing climate-related anxiety amongst students, although it can be difficult to identify climate change as the cause since it’s a shared problem rather than a personal one.
Social media has fundamentally changed the way people interact with each other, and for kids and young adults who have only ever known a world with social media, this leads to consequences that previous generations never had to deal with.
Countless studies have found links between social media use/screen time and anxiety; the more screen time a young person has, the more likely they are to have higher anxiety than those around them.
But what is it about social media that leads to anxiety?
Everything from cyberbullying (which is rampant amongst students, as anonymity and faceless interactions make it easier for them to say things they would never say in real life) to comparing yourself against the social media highlights of your peers.
These upward comparisons to others can make students feel small and inadequate.
But the answer isn’t as simple as removing social media from their life cold turkey.
Amongst heavy users, this can also increase anxiety because of a phenomenon known as FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out.
Students who also engage heavily on social media are also more likely to have higher levels of alcohol consumption, which further increases anxiety and depression.
Another modern problem previous generations never faced is information overload, or the overwhelming feeling of being bombarded with too much information, data, and news on a daily basis.
And in the world of smartphones and wireless internet, students are forced to deal with more information than ever before.
For many young people, this information overload comes before their brains are fully developed and capable of processing everything without being overly stressed out or affected.
Information overload is also connected to distraction issues present in many students today, as they develop problems with focusing and concentrating due to endless stimulation.
Student debt and financial distress has made a huge impact on the overall mental health of older students and young adults today.
Also known as financial anxiety, student debt has been found to be a major aggravator of stress and anxiety amongst students in their 20s and 30s.
This stress is greatest as students are about to graduate, as the pressure comes from knowing they have to start paying off the debt but also knowing they are entering a weak job market.
According to Dr. Galen Buckwalter, “A lot of the pressure comes from where you started, thought-wise, where college is concerned.
Many people begin college and the openness of their personality changes, as everything feels suddenly possible.
“But the reality is that the expectations on all levels are really rigid and the stress comes from the abrupt shift, after several years in college where the world feels very welcoming to suddenly realizing that one needs to find the correct path, all with financial stress.”
Testing anxiety or test anxiety affects around 10 million students in North America, with around 16 to 20% of students experiencing high test anxiety and another 18% dealing with moderate test anxiety.
The pressure to succeed as a student is now greater than ever, with standardized, high-pressure tests coming into students’ lives at earlier ages.
Students with test anxiety fear their negative self-talk, grades as a reflection of their value, high expectations brought on by themselves or by parents and teachers, and the overall lack of control when dealing with tests they aren’t comfortable with, such as timed tests or impromptu tests.
Mindfulness: What Is Mindfulness and How Can It Help Students?
With so many stressors attacking students from all sides, it can feel like an impossible task helping them overcome each and every problem.
The issue is that these stressors can’t be easily solved; problems like climate change, social media information overload, and cyberbullying are long-term issues that affect all areas of their life.
They simply can’t be “turned off”; they are a part of reality that students need to accept.
Helping students deal with their anxiety means equipping them with the tools to properly navigate through these issues without losing their sense of self. And the best tool to do that is mindfulness.
Mindfulness for students: The secret to student wellbeing?
Brown, Lachlan. “Mindfulness for Students: The Secret to Student Wellbeing?” Hack Spirit, 26 Sept. 2020, hackspirit.com/mindfulness-for-students/.
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Rachel Wixey & Associates
I chose this article because it is a very recent article that takes into consideration not only the normal struggles that students face, but also the more recent ones that come with 2020. Being knowledgeable about these struggles can help us mold our education system into one that supports the students in all aspects of their lives.