Trying to balance studies, work and family is a daily reality that many motivated young Cambodians must face. For students studying at multiple universities or juggling multiple jobs, the strain is even greater. With so many different things to worry about, it is no wonder that stress and anxiety are common issues among university students.
Kheiv Sideom says he struggles against the effects of stress on a daily basis. “When I am stressed, I act cruel and I place my anger on other people unintentionally,” explained the 21-year-old, who studies at both Royal University of Law and Economics and Pañassastra University of Cambodia. “Sometimes when I get stressed I go out with my friends as a release, but other times I just sit down alone because I don’t know what to do with myself.”
Symptoms of stress include headaches, difficulty sleeping and worrying. It is caused by the many pressures weighing on students who not only have to worry about classes, exams, making money and succeeding in school, but also personal issues with their family and friends.
As a mental health expert, Dr Yin Sobotra, the deputy director of mental illness at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, agrees that many students are overly stressed due to their many obligations in and out of the classroom. In order to meet the requirements of the developing job market, students are pushing themselves harder than ever.
Yin Sobotra explained that there are two kinds of stress: positive and negative. Negative stress happens when someone must face an uncomfortable situation or worry about an event in the future. This type of stress often results in anger or unhappiness. Positive stress can happen when someone is looking forward to something, or is pleasantly surprised.
Women are the victims of stress more than men, Yin Sobotra said, suggesting that this is because men are able to talk about their life’s problems more openly than women.
People in Cambodia tend to check in on their physical health much more often than their mental health. Unless there is an emergency, they tend to avoid the doctor altogether. Yin Sobotra advises people to check in on both their physical and mental health on a regular basis. The doctor suggests two different solutions to dealing with stress.
First, you can try to deal with problems yourself. Try to locate what is stressing you out and manage you life so that those things become less of an issue. Try to prioritise your life and do things to entertain yourself both mentally and physically.
Another strategy is to do relaxing activities. “If you like talking with friends, call them and discuss how to solve your problems. You can listen to music, do meditation or do yoga, which is becoming more popular. One of the best things you can do is go to the gym and exercise,” he said.
If you feel that you can not deal with your problems by yourself, the next step is to go to a professional psychiatrist or psychologist to help you sort out your issues. They have been professionally trained to locate the cause of stress and help people deal with their symptoms. “Most students get stressed and keep their feelings inside. If you don’t deal with your problems, they will make you more and more stressed, depressed, and emotional disorders will begin to take shape,” warned Yin Sobotra. “Do not use medications to combat stress and avoid drinking beer and doing drugs because it will not only impact your studies and finances, but lead you towards more significant troubles.