Stress is 'extreme' during exam time, UAE teenagers complain

DUBAI // Poor parental communication, unrelenting schoolwork and the constant social media pressure to live the perfect life are taking teenagers to breaking point during exam season. Sixth form pupils at Jumeirah College completed anxiety questionnaires before taking part in “emotional intelligence” workshops, as teachers and counsellors attempt to get into their heads. Linda Bonnar […]

DUBAI // Poor parental communication, unrelenting schoolwork and the constant social media pressure to live the perfect life are taking teenagers to breaking point during exam season.

Sixth form pupils at Jumeirah College completed anxiety questionnaires before taking part in “emotional intelligence” workshops, as teachers and counsellors attempt to get into their heads.

Linda Bonnar drew a line under her 12-year teaching job to begin a new career life coaching, offering advice to parents and young people in podcasts on how to deal with stress.

“It’s clear young people are not always given the opportunity to talk about their issues,” she said.

“There is a pill culture in treating some problems, like stress and depression, rather than natural remedies like exercise.”

Peer pressure and the importance of going to university added to stress. In Dubai, some children are taking on family pressures, such as having to return to their home countries if parents have lost jobs, or the worry about finances and school fees.

Mrs Bonnar, an ex-sixth form tutor who also taught history to year seven to 13 pupils for six years at Jumeirah College, said parents are often unsure where to turn.

“Students would often tell me they couldn’t cope and felt no one understood them,” she said. “If kids think they may be leaving the country, they lose motivation to succeed. They’ve become the Dubai bubble kids, lacking identity, who don’t know where they belong.”

Constant demands of academia often led to a lack of sleep, and pressure to make parents feel proud was hindering their success, the questionnaires found.

Social media was blamed as being a source of competition.

The pupils, who commented anonymously, said exam time was the most stressful time of year.

One pupil, Alex, said: “Social stresses can be particularly difficult to deal with because they don’t go away.

“Social media makes everything more competitive and superficial. People are influenced to post attractive or appealing pictures to get likes and feel socially validated. We all do it almost subconsciously now.”

Another, Maha, added: “I’m quite a private person so, personally, I don’t discuss my problems.

“Stress is by far my biggest issue. Normally it’s about exams or deadlines in school but sometimes it’s about upcoming life changes or decisions.”

David said he found it difficult speaking to his family.

“My parents have conservative and close-minded attitudes towards my problems,” he said.

“They don’t understand the extent of stress to try to make them proud, leading them to push me towards things I’m not comfortable with, like taking on too much work.”

Andrea, who is studying psychology, admitted to suffering from “extreme” stress.

“Teachers are consistently demanding more when I’m already putting inasmuch as I can,” she said.

“I used to sleep for roughly 8 to 9 hours, now purely to complete work I’m lucky if I get six.”

Some pupils said exercise helped them refocus and concentrate on the job in hand. It can be the perfect way to improve mental health in young people, according to consultant psychiatrist Dr Fareeha Amber Sadiq, of the Dubai Camali Clinic.

“Exercise reduces stress levels and is proven to help you think more flexibly, and clearly,” she said.

“Mood-boosting chemicals are produced when you ramp up your physical activity, and this can help raise self-esteem and improve symptoms of anxiety.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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