Job worries fuel regional students’ exam stress

Frontline youth service ReachOut surveyed regional and city-based students about their stresses. Photo: Shutterstock
Frontline youth service ReachOut surveyed regional and city-based students about their stresses. Photo: Shutterstock

Students from regional Australia are much more worried about finding a job after school than their city counterparts.

And, frontline youth service ReachOut, says it’s causing them stress at exam time.

The new research, released as part of the annual ReachOut@ExamTime campaign, found 60 per cent of regional students are showing worrying levels of exam stress.

Nearly half (43 per cent) put it down to being worried about getting a job after school. This is compared to one-in-three students living in capital cities (35 per cent).

“There’s no doubt that the combination of distance, drought and decline in local economies and job prospects in many parts of regional Australia are contributing to rising levels of exam stress outside our capital cities,” ReachOut CEO Ashley de Silva said.

“It’s a big added pressure at exam time when you consider many regional students know they may be forced to move hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from their family just to find a job or continue studying.”

ReachOut surveyed 1000 young people aged between 14 and 25, with 39 per cent from regional areas.

Students based in regional areas were more likely to seek professional help for their exam stress from a medical or mental health professional compared to their city counterparts (36 to 26 per cent).

Mr de Silva said regional students were also twice as likely to seek help online (20 per cent) for their exam stress than city students (8 per cent).

And in more good news for the country students, they feel less pressured by their family at exam time compared to city students (26-34 per cent).

“We understand that for many regional students geography can be an additional barrier to accessing face-to-face support services when it comes to exam stress,” Mr de Silva said. 

“The beauty of ReachOut for regional students in particular is that it’s 24/7 and anonymous – meaning help is available privately anywhere, anytime with the click of a button.”

Remember there's not just one direct path to your future: It’s a series of choices and a fair bit of trial and error that you can learn from as you go.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed about the future, start by asking yourself a few questions: You can start with things like what do I enjoy, what am I good at, what lifestyle appeals to me, do I need to study? You could use the answers to put together a mindmap of all the possible options.

Focussing on what’s within your control will increase your confidence: You could organise a chat with someone who has studied an area you’re interested in, attend TAFE or Uni Open Days or set up some work experience to learn more about different roles and industries.

Keep the self-talk positive: Remember you’re good enough just as you are now, regardless of what you choose to do with your life.

Even when exams are looming, make time for the things that make you feel good: This could be something like catching up with friends, going for a run, or even something really small like listening to your fave new podcast in your study break.

Try some simple food swaps: Swap a piece of cake for some wholegrain crackers with cheese and tomato, an energy drink for a fruit smoothie, or chips for a handful of nuts. 

Get a reusable water bottle: You can pop it in your bag and refill regularly to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.

Use your study break to prep some healthy snacks. Cooking can be great for relaxation and mindfulness, plus you’ll create some healthy snacks to help keep you away from the vending machine.

Don’t deny yourself the occasional treat: Occasional 

Consider your caffeine intake: Too much caffeine can increase your heart rate and create feelings similar to anxiety.

Check out ReachOut’s guide to foods that help our brain study.