Don't be so hard on yourself! Study on first-year student stress

January 30, 2017, University of British Columbia

Stressed out university students, take note: self-compassion may be the key to making it through your first year, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Researchers from the faculty of education's school of kinesiology found who reported higher levels of self-compassion felt more energetic, alive and optimistic during their first semester of university. When the students' sense of self-compassion levels rose, so too did their engagement and motivation with life.

"Our study suggests the psychological stress students may experience during the transition between and university can be mitigated with self-compassion because it enhances the psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which in turn, enriches well-being," said Katie Gunnell, the study's lead author and a junior research scientist at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa. The study was part of Gunnell's PhD work at UBC.

Self-compassion interventions can involve exercises to avoid negative self-judgment or feelings of inadequacy. One example involves writing self-compassionately about a negative experience. Self-compassion emphasizes self-kindness, which means to not be overly critical of oneself; common humanity, which means to recognize failure is universal; and mindfulness, which means being present and calm in the moment.

"Research shows first-year university is stressful," said co-author and UBC kinesiology professor Peter Crocker. "Students who are used to getting high grades may be shocked to not do as well in university, feel challenged living away from home, and are often missing important social support they had in high school. Self-compassion appears to be an effective strategy or resource to cope with these types of issues."

Crocker said his research group has previously shown that self-compassion interventions lower self-criticism and negative ruminations in high performance female athletes.

The researchers said their findings highlight the potential for colleges and universities to enhance self-compassion for first-year students through the development of workshops or campaigns.

Explore further: Self-compassion helps to cope with symptoms of menopause

More information: Katie E. Gunnell et al, Don't be so hard on yourself! Changes in self-compassion during the first year of university are associated with changes in well-being, Personality and Individual Differences (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.11.032

Related Stories

Self-compassion key to positive body image and coping

September 29, 2014

Women who accept and tolerate their imperfections appear to have a more positive body image despite their body mass index (BMI) and are better able to handle personal disappointments and setbacks in their daily lives.

Doctors need to develop broader skill of empathy

December 6, 2016

Developing a broader skill of empathy is a more realistic goal for medical students and doctors than urging them to be more compassionate. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr David Jeffrey, an honorary ...

Recommended for you

Excavators find tombs buried in Bolivia 500 years ago

November 17, 2018

Archaeologists say they found tombs at a Bolivian quarry containing remains from more than 500 years ago that give an insight into the interaction of various peoples with the expanding Inca empire.

Preventing chemical weapons as sciences converge

November 15, 2018

Alarming examples of the dangers from chemical weapons have been seen recently in the use of industrial chemicals and the nerve agent sarin against civilians in Syria, and in the targeted assassination operations using VX ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.