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Students get advice on avoiding stress

A quarter of all Dutch students suffer burn-out symptoms, and an even greater percentage regularly experience emotional exhaustion and tiredness. At a symposium on 7 May students were given tips for handling stress.

There was a time when students had a reputation for laziness, but that image is long gone. The study years may well still feature great parties, but at the same time they can be very stressful years. Recent research by Hogeschool Windesheim has even shown that a quarter of all students struggle with burn-out complaints. 

Practical tips

What is causing this stress? And what can students and educational institutions do about it? These were the key questions at the Stress-free Study symposium organised on 7 May by the Honours Academy, the Leiden Assessors body (LAssO) and the Leiden University Student Platform (LUS). The aim of the day was to give students some practical tips for making their student days less stressful. 

Vice-Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl kicked off the meeting with a video message. She expressed her understanding of the situation that students find themselves in. The pressure to perform is high, partly because of the binding study advice and study financing that has to be repaid. Not only this, students are also the object of constant stimuli via social media, and the social side of student life also needs some attention. 'It's not surprising that all this can at times lead to stress. I am happy that these various organisations have now taken the initiative to discuss causes and remedies with students.' 

Gas cooker with four burners

That took place in the different workshops. Leon Bosma and Laura van Megen from De Kleine Consultant explain that you have to make choices if you want to excel at something. Bosma: ‘You have the equivalent of a gas cooker with four burners, where you try to keep family, friends, study and health in balance. But we suffer from a chronic lack of time so we can't have all these four burners work at maximum capacity. Sometimes you have to make choices, and turn one of the burners down or even switch it of.' You can make sure you take a break from studying after your exams, or remove the Facebook app from your phone if your 'friends' burner needs to be turned down for a while. 

And while we're talking about excelling: try to stop comparing yourself with others. This was the advice of coach Milo de Mol in his workshop. ‘We have the habit of comparing ourselves with the student next door. But  isn't it better to manage your own performance by seeing where you are now and where you want to get to?' Then a bit of stress can even have a positive effect. When you are working just above your level, it gives you room to grow. ‘Optimum stress’ is what De Mol calls it, somewhere between ‘bore out’ and 'burn out’.

Talk about it more

‘I hope that today's participants realise that they're by no means unusual if they experience a lot of stress or even have a burn-out,’ Jip Muris (24, student of International Relations) commented. She suffered from a burn-out herself for eighteen months before she dared to tell her friends and family about it. 'You're not alone; it happens to so many of us. But why does nobody mention it? It's something we as a society should talk about more.' 

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