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How to help students cope with academic stress
  • Wellbeing

This blog is from one of COBIS’ Supporting Associates.

Written by Pierre de Mirman, Deputy Global CEO at Pacific Prime.

Educators and school administrators at academically-rigorous international schools face numerous challenges - chief of them being academic stress amongst the student body. From pressure to perform well in exams and get into top universities to stress arising from language barriers and cultural differences, it’s not uncommon to see students facing mental wellbeing issues at these top schools.

It goes without saying that poor mental health amongst the student body is never a good sign. Not only can it affect the overall health and happiness of students, but it can also lead to an inability to learn and absorb information, which, in turn, contributes to poor grades. So much so that schools need to come up with a comprehensive policy on how to help students cope with academic stress.

In this article, we’ll go over some tried-and-tested ways that educators and school administrators can help students cope with academic stress.

Identify the root cause of students’ academic stress

While many students may be facing academic stress, the root cause of their stress can vary significantly. Some students may be facing academic stress because they are new to the school and curriculum, while others may be facing pressure from family or have certain health problems. Without knowing the cause of students’ academic stress, it’s very difficult to offer them the right kind of support and assistance.

Start by asking open-ended questions about how students are doing. This prevents students from simply answering ‘ok’ or ‘I’m fine’, and encourages them to be more specific. Remember to listen actively and show empathy, helping students figure out and express what they’re feeling. If students don’t open up immediately, it’s important to be patient and keep trying until you can get through to them.

Provide information and guide them

Sometimes, all students need is a bit of information or clarification on academic requirements, expectations, and resources for their courses in order to feel less academic stress. It may help for them to know all their available options and alternatives, as well as academic and non-academic support services to avail of. From tutoring to counseling and beyond, a little push in the right direction goes a long way.

Gain their trust and respect

By showing genuine interest and care for students, communicating clearly and consistently with them, being honest and reliable, as well as respecting their privacy and autonomy, you’ll be able to gain students’ trust. Doing so ensures that students are more likely to confide in you and follow your guidance, which can significantly contribute to an effective partnership and working relationship.

Collaborate with other stakeholders

When addressing students’ academic stress, you may also need to work with other key stakeholders such as the senior leadership or safeguarding team at your school. By doing so, you can ensure that students have access to experts who can be professionally trained to provide them with the right support and resources when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.

In addition, educators and school administrators also have to communicate and collaborate with parents and guardians. It’s important to do this in a tactful way - especially if it’s pressure from parents that is causing the child academic stress in the first place - in order to make sure the child’s best interest is kept at heart.

Lead with example when it comes to self-care

One effective way to cope with academic stress (or any other stress for that matter) of students is to maintain a healthy balance between their work and personal lives, and help them regularly practice self-care. Whether it’s through meditation, exercise, journaling, or more, there are many ways one can channel their stress and turn it into positive energy. Remind your students to do so and lead by example.

For students that need a bit more help, you can help them:

  • Identify challenges related to poor work-life balance and academic stress
  • Develop goals and a realistic plan of action
  • Choose strategies to deal with setbacks
  •  And more

Foster a school-wide culture of wellbeing

There are many ways to foster a school-wide culture of wellbeing including, but not limited to, providing healthy options in the school cafeteria, campaigns on how to reduce the transmission of flu, incorporating outdoor time during school hours, and more. Make sure you don’t forget to offer staff a health insurance plan that covers wellbeing and employee assistance program (EAP) either, as staff can only help students when they are well themselves.

To learn more about health insurance and wellbeing solutions for staff at your school, you’re welcome to send me an email via