Massey's plan to cut student exam stress

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 05/06/2014

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Massages, milkshakes, and sausage sizzles are among the offerings to Manawatu students in a move to relieve exam stress.

Massey University's counselling services help more than 1000 students a year with a range of stress-related issues.

In response the Massey University Students' Association (MUSA) has teamed up with community groups, churches and counsellors to give students cramming for exams a range of activities to help them relax.

MUSA president Linsey Higgins said extra support was needed as students struggled with pre-exam nerves.

Stress levels were reaching new heights and students were feeling the pressure to pass because of the impact on student loans, allowances and career choices, she said.

Massey's head of student counselling services Mark Rainier said study strain impacted on students' wellbeing.

"Every day students are putting themselves out to be judged by their peers and academics . . . and we often see students feeling so overwhelmed that they lose balance in their life."

Signs of stress included physiological problems, issues with eating and sleeping, irritability, mood swings, colds and changes in lifestyle.

"Some research says students are more stressed, but whether our society is more stressed might be part of it," Rainier said.

"We see a significant proportion of the student body experiencing stress, but we try to intervene before they get there."

Rainier hosts sessions to help students overcome stress - on the list of tips was "short and sharp" strategies aimed at breaking the panic cycle, including stretching, yawning, short walks and screaming into a pillow.

"Successful coping is critical because of the pressures put on students to pass," he said.

"It's about giving your brain a break and being mindful - it's not at all earth-shattering stuff, but we tend to forget those things when we become overwhelmed by fear."

First-year pre-vet student Alex Sinclair, 18, said stress levels were running high.

"I think about everything we have to remember for the exams all the time, especially because vet is so competitive and we have to do so well."

Third-year applied science student Paul Henwood, 34, has returned to study after a 12-year hiatus.

Stress levels remained steady throughout the semester, but there were added apprehensions with assessments, he said.

"The stress is totally different now from when I was 19 or 20," he said.

"Back then the actual study side of things . . . was easier, whereas now, even though I understand the subject after experience working, it's hard regurgitating that into assignments and exams."

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Massey's first semester two-week exams period starts on Tuesday, with 644 exams scheduled.

- Manawatu Standard

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