Adult students suffer from significant stress -how, why and what can they do to battle this stress?Adult students suffer from significant stress -how, why and what can they do to battle this stress?

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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I’m not sure if anyone else has addressed it, but when I went back to finish an undergraduate degree, I experienced stress for multiple reasons. 1)I felt as if I had to carry the full brunt of my “pre college” duties and that it would reflect badly on me if I needed help with my other duties. I learned to deal with this quicklyJ I also felt stress because my education was more important to me than when I was a teenager. That being said, I also experienced stress because many of the teenagers in my undergraduate classes did not take their education seriously, and I felt as if some of their foolishness was wasting my time.

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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My husband is currently going back to school after being out of college for several years.  He is about 15 years older than most of his peers and feels rather isolated not only because of his age but because of his world experience (he's been deployed three times since 9/11).  What typical younger students worry about and stress out about coupled with their general lack of responsibility or promptness bother him because he realizes how much of a detriment those characteristics mean in the working world.  He also feels stress because he feels that he is on a shorter timeline than other students.  He doesn't have time to change his major numerous times, retake classes that he didn't feel like attending or that he had difficulty in--he knows that he must do well in those classes and still fulfill his other roles in life.

One thing that I have tried to encourage him with is that teachers usually really appreciate their "older" students and are willing to help them if they just ask.  He also finds that physical activity is an excellent break from studying and homework.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Adult students are frequently employed while they are matriculating, and many of them have families. To say they are in a time crunch would be a gross understatement. Nevertheless, many adult students feel so overwhelmed with tasks and duties that they neglect to take any "stress relief" time for themselves, feeling that they just can't afford to.

It's essential for people to recharge their batteries, so to speak, and spending even ten minutes relaxing in the bathtub, for example, in the evening will go a long way toward helping to dissipate stress. Walking is a great way to get exercise and still be able to make phone calls if needed--I feel a lot less guilty about taking an hour for a walk each day when I am making phone calls while I'm walking.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Adult students suffer from stress for many different reason and on many different levels. Since this question is posted in the social science area, I will give a sociological answer. One of the reasons for stress is because adult students experience displacement. In other words, they are going to school with people, who could possible be their sons or daughters or in the least younger siblings. This fact alone makes them stand out - not in a good way and for this reason cause stress. Also what makes things harder is that they have "adult" responsibilities. Perhaps they have a family, work and other things.

What they can do is to organize their lives more efficiently and try to be a part of a support group. They should certainly get to know the instructor, who may be on the same page or at the same age.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The stress that adult students feel for all the reasons already cited can be relieved in the ways suggested, indeed.  In addition, adults students often become anxious about certain subjects that they take such as math.  Because they have been out of school for an extended time, they worry that they will not do well in the course in which they are currently enrolled as they have forgotten concepts that are requisite to this course.  However, a good instructor can ease their anxieties by bridging some of the new concepts to the life skills in math that they people have acquired in daily living.  Likewise, in literature classes these older students many times fare better than younger ones for the life experience that they bring to their readings; frequently, they have gleaned insights into people's thinking that aids them in understanding fictional characters.  Thus, they bring an added dimension to the classroom.

So, with the help of understanding instructors and the realization that they have continued to learn even though they were not in classrooms, some of the stress of being a student again can be relieved.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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My guess would be that adult student stress in most cases is related to the fact that they also work full-time and have family responsibilities.  For anyone, however, stress can probably be assuaged, at least somewhat, by some fairly elementary activities:  eating right, finding time for mild exercise, and an occasional treat, even it's something as simple as having an hour to oneself to do nothing, or a pleasant activity of choice.  Stress can be a good thing in that it is often the result of someone who is highly motivated to achieve a goal--such as going back to school to further one's education.  The key for anyone is balance, as much as is possible in one's situation, to keep a person from burning out and unable to achieve what is most important to him or her.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I assume you mean older students who have gone back to college...

These students typically experience more stress for a variety of reasons.  First of all, they typically have more responsibilities such as children and jobs.  Second, they have been out of the school environment for a long time and aren't used to it anymore.  Third, they feel more pressure because they are using their own money to pay for their schooling.  These are the common causes of stress among the adult students I've had at the community college where I teach.

There are all sorts of stress reduction techniques that various mental health people advocate, including exercise, journaling, prayer, carving out time to relax and many others.  Follow the link for more...

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shemsham | High School Teacher | (Level 3) eNoter

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In 1968 Malcom Knowles came up with a new label for adult learning called Andragogy. This was a European concept meaning "The art and science of helping adults learn." Andragogy is based on several assumptions about adult learning. To say adults are stressed because they work, have a family or other things, could overlook some things that educators need to know about them. One of the assumptions is that an adult is a self-directing being. Pablo Friere in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed , said, learners ususally bring some knowledge to the classroom, and adult learners are no different. Adults bring a reservoir of  experience also.Adults possess a high degree of self-actualization,and they are motivated by internal factors more so than external ones.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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There are two types of stress, bad stress and good stress.

Bad stress: Mankind was made to handle stress in two ways flight or fight.  In today's society mankind is unable to practice either method successfully.  Instead he must use his wit or gut to work through issues.  Many times  his emotions and responses become internalized.  The demands of society have also changed significantly.  The abstract concept of time has become a major control in people's lives.  There are pressures that can not be avoided and when man can not run nor fight, he begins to experience stress. 

Stress is that which causes a mirad of symptoms that can include; anxiety, high blood pressure, anger, fear, forgetfullness, irritability, depression, insominia, problems related to physical health, exhaustion, and mood swings.  It can be combatted by practicing Yoga, a series of breathing and posture exercises that help a person to relax and find inner peace.  Eating a healthy diet and regular excercise can help. 

Good stress:  A person may be looking forward to the birth of new grandchild, marriage, a swim meeet, or trip and experience stress.  Not all stress is bad as some of stress can come from good experiences.  However, change and anticipation alter and effect the human body and cause many of the same symptoms as bad stress.  It is important to take time to exercise, do something one enjoys, watch some Tv, or let others handle some of the workload involved in a family event. 

The best method to treat stress is through stress prevention.  Sine life is about ups and downs and changes, the human psyche is always trying to stay in balance with his environment and physical health.  Setting up a regular exercise routine can help to alleviate symptoms and prevent them. It is important for an individual to be able to recognize the symptoms of stress and to act in some of the following ways; talk with others about one's feelings, get away from the situation when possible even if it is only for a short period, take care of one's physical health, eat a healthy nutritional diet, sleep on a regular schedule, avoid the urge to self medicate or use alcohol, and above all try not to take on too many activities or tasks.

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