As many students go through finals this time of year, it is important to remember to maintain time for self-care and mental well-being. I have struggled to dedicate time to my mental health and physical well being during this finals season. To destress myself during finals, I make sure to not study too late, spend time with friends, and exercise at least once a day. However, I did not always deal with the pressure of academics well.
Throughout my childhood, specifically in middle school and high school, I faced an immense amount of academic pressure. Most of the pressure came from my parents. Although I have never been a great student, the pressure that my parents put on me at the end of middle school and beginning of high school made me a much better student. However, the repeated stress of being in an intense academic setting wore on me. My days in middle school consisted of tough school lessons, a quick break, and then hours and hours of homework. Although these long days helped me become a better student and pushed me to become a better version of myself, they eventually caught up to me.
Both of my parents are South Asian; and although we are not a very traditionally Indian family, I found it common that many of my South Asian and Asian peers in middle school and high school also felt an immense sense of pressure from a young age to perform well in school. I also found it common to many of my non-Asian peers; however, I noticed it much more frequently with Asian students. I think that the inability of Asian students, particularly South Asians, to voice their unhealthy mindsets and habits to their family, friends, and anyone who could help them hurts their ability to fix their mindsets. I think that this inability to communicate comes from standard cultural practices that are more apparent or severe in Asian households. In more stereotypical Asian households, I have noticed that it is less common for children to express their feelings. In addition, Asian households can have the cultural practice of respecting elders in such a severe way, children never voice their concerns over decisions their parents have made for them. To be clear, these stereotypes are not common to every Asian or South East Asian household, but when they are in a negative way, they can dramatically impact the mental health of young students. I have noticed many Asian students who are sleep deprived, do not develop meaningful relationships, and do not prioritize or pay attention to their own physical health.
It took me a while to open up to my parents, but eventually I did. I started to form more meaningful relationships my junior year of high school. In doing so, I had an outlet to get away from the pressure of school. In my junior year as well, I also began to focus more on my mental health and less on the outcome of my grades. Interestingly, I did better in school as I focused more on my process of studying rather than the outcome. I also opened up to my parents about school and my social life. In doing so, I felt more free to ask for help and advice. It also gave them a better understanding of my perspective and the issues I was going through. So much became easier when I started to make my own decisions and had their trust because they knew where I was coming from. While not every South Asian or Asian student faces these issues, I hope that some of this advice will help people struggling with these hard issues.
Blog Post by Sharad Mahajan