SURVIVING BY BUILDING MENTAL MUSCLE

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH TESTED DURING TRYING TIMES

The students of today in their quest to create better futures for themselves are facing many challenges. As we celebrate Youth Day, many find themselves stuck with the question, ‘Is there anything to be celebrated in the South Africa of today? The various disempowering ills faced by students contribute to this pessimistic outlook. 

June 16 has also been hailed as International Day of the African Child throughout the world, where the focus is on the barriers African children face to receive a quality education. Ironical, for the student of today who due to COVID-19 and its impact has found themselves studying online an experience never had before. The socio-political climate also adds to the frustration of students. This now means that students not only have their academic studies to worry about but they are also impacted by the repercussions of all that is happening around them. Their worries now extend to finances, family social stressors, health issues all whilst they are still developing their own self-identities. Some also experience secondary trauma, when hearing about the plethora of funding problems faced by their peers. By default, this confluence of worries graduates to challenges with time. For a young person, this can be disheartening, as this experience also carries with it emotional and psychological demands which one may not have the ability to manage.

As tempting as it may be to be despondent, it is important that students remember that there are resources and institutions that exist to support them in their quest to create better futures for themselves. Being able to utilize such resources though, starts with a shift from the developed negative mindset. Changing from this negative outlook is still possible with intentional efforts at developing strong mental muscle. 

Students have power that lies within them which when utilized can change the trajectory of their lives and subsequently that of future generations. This change though can only start with an acceptance that life has newer and more complex demands. With that, comes the realization that focusing on the things that one cannot control leads to frustration. Looking for things that are within one’s means serves to bring hope. This can be realized in seeking more innovative ways of navigating the student journey amidst the many limitations. One essentially then starts to come into the realization that one is not as powerless as previously perceived. The actions of the students of 1976 are proof to that one is not so hopeless. Of course, times and needs have changed therefore the solutions that are sought will be in line with the current period.

Self-compassion becomes a key factor in this new journey of change. In the pursuit of more creative ways of achieving their goals will be difficulties. Giving up cannot be an option, changing course and adjusting their plans will be needed. This involves realizing that they are struggling and seeking support from their various institutional support structures. Reaching out for support at this stage is not a sign of weakness but instead a show of inner strength and dedication. Resilience in this journey is also an essential part of developing their mental muscle. It would enable them to adjust to challenges with ease and “bounce back” from such situations even stronger than before. Whilst some are born with the ability to remain calm in the face of adversity, one can learn it with effort and practice. 

When seeing others achieve ahead, can be anxiety-provoking especially when one has just entered tertiary student life. Looking at such success stories is a good motivation that sheer hard work pays off.  Failures and delays are part of the student life journey, ultimately though many a success story started with failing and detours. If there is anything to be learned from the history of the 1976 students, it should be that the power lies within. Each day, therefore, brings with it another opportunity to soldier on. So remember to always get Syked on life.

Written by Education

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