With exams and assignments due this week, it is only natural that there'll be heightened feelings of stress and anxiety. As discussed in previous articles, planning your study and homework effectively is the best way to mitigate these effects of exam week. It is also important to consider our girls person and not just a student. Our care program based on positive psychology, attempts to look at different aspects of our girls based on the PERMA framework developed by Dr Martin Seligman, the director of the positive psychology centre at the University of Pennsylvania.
Too often we find our girls wanting to work well past their normal hours, because they feel overwhelmed with the work ahead of them. They offer themselves very little in terms of breaks and downtime. Taking a break for 5 minutes every half an hour or so to go for a walk and clear the mind is a proven technique to reduce anxiety and increase cognitive function. It is too easy to fall into bad habits of eating junk food, staying up that little bit later to do extra study and consume caffeine-based drinks to help power through. Maintaining a healthy routine of sleep, hydration and nutrition is of the utmost importance to maintain balance during these peak periods.
Besides the most obvious effects on mental health; bad habits during exam season can have physical effects on the body, most notably reduced immune system function. As Term 1 exams coincide with the change of season this often leads to increased cases of colds and flu. On top of the normal stresses of Term 1, the COVID-19 pandemic is adding an additional layer of stress for our girls. The way this is being portrayed in the media is sensationalising, often based on opinion and not scientific fact or current recommended guidelines.
Refocusing our girls in the coming weeks and over the holidays and giving them a real sense of purpose as a human being is our best way forward in supporting their mental health and general wellbeing. As much as possible and practical, I would recommend allowing them to engage with their friends to maintain their meaningful relationships and support of each other. Allow them to follow their individual passions whether it be music, sporting or cultural. Give them added responsibilities around the house. Some of my favourite homework tasks to set is to do the dishes and take the dog for a walk. You would be surprised what tasks can give them a sense of everyday purpose and achievement.
I would anticipate that over the upcoming holiday period, with expected social isolation being enforced, there will be an increase in screen time. Studies show that teenagers who have more than two hours social media screen time per day show lower levels of well-being. I strongly encourage you to support your girls in staying connected to their friends in meaningful ways; using their technology video chats, online gaming and other forms of active collaboration can be extremely beneficial. If used appropriately, our social platforms can have a positive effect as we progress through the coming weeks and months.
Mr Ryan Cheers
Deputy Principal (Acting)