Photo by Mariah Wilson

Students should prioritize their wellness amid relentless academic stress

By Jesse Stilwell, May 2 2018 —

Exams often make students engage in some unhealthy practices in order to achieve success. It can seem impossible to maintain a healthy diet, an exercise schedule and spend time with friends and family, all while reviewing for multiple important exams. Some curriculums force this level of stress on students for entire semesters, causing them to scramble to just get by rather than thrive.

Academica Group recently surveyed 3,000 students and recent graduates from Alberta post-secondaries to compare their quality of life. They drew comparisons between employed students, unemployed students and employed graduates.

The results aren’t surprising. Employed students reported low levels of physical activity and infrequent social interactions, as well as low-quality diets. Unemployed students weren’t much better. But graduates were doing quite well — 33 per cent reported they had spent quality time with friends or family in the past 24 hours. Only 25 per cent of students, employed or not, had seen a loved one in the past week.

University is supposed to prepare students for life after education. Graduates should be critical thinkers who are prepared to question the world around them and make it better. On that note, students should question the overwhelming stress and ensuing unhealthy habits and why the current state of academia necessitates such circumstances.

Students are taking more time to finish their degrees, giving themselves more room to enjoy their studies and actually get something out of the experience of being on campus. Five years to complete a degree is the new four and no one should be ashamed of taking extra time to get through what could be among the most difficult years of their lives.

Students are encouraged to engage in multiple extra-curricular activities and opportunities to build resumés that stand a chance post-graduation of finding a job and building a life because academics are no longer enough. This means that even though universities are offering more and more resources to improve student wellness, it can be difficult to find the time to take advantage of these by going to a counselling appointment, having some fun at puppy rooms or even just cooking a nice meal.

University should not be a race or a test of students’ wills to survive. The mental health crisis that students are enduring is a product of society’s relentless pursuit of capitalist success. It shouldn’t be taken as a sign that someone is slacking off if they choose to go out with friends on weekends instead of studying and it shouldn’t be a luxury to enjoy a workout during midterm season.

Universities must continue to emphasize student experience and student wellness if education is going to be sustainable. Students shouldn’t question themselves if they choose to take one less class each semester in order to give themselves more time to enjoy their time on campus. Universities should strive to help students get closer to the results that graduates reported in terms of their self-care and time spent with friends.

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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