Mental Health During the IB Diploma Programme

Mohamad Damaj
6 min read

Mental Health During the IB Diploma Programme

The IB programme is well known for its rigorous curriculum which places students under an intense workload, often impacting the mental health of students during their mental health. This stress and anxiety deplete the student’s ability to perform. As such, managing your mental health is super important to get through the IB program.

In this article, I’ll talk about recognizing and addressing this stress and anxiety, exploring resources and strategies that may help you, and sharing some personal insights into how I dealt with mental health during my IB journey. Before I begin, let me give a small disclaimer that anything I say in this article is based on personal experience and general advice, and it may not work for everyone. Always consider consulting a mental health professional for personalized guidance.

Recognizing and Addressing Stress and Anxiety

Firstly, before you can even do anything about stress and anxiety you need to recognize it and acknowledge it. Particularly, stress and anxiety tend to sneak up on you when you least expect it, so it’s important to know to be aware of the signs.

Signs of Stress and Anxiety: You might feel worried constantly and unable to rest, have trouble sleeping when you are assigned work, or notice changes in your eating habits. Maybe you’re constantly feeling irritable, having trouble concentrating or experiencing physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches. These are all red flags that stress and anxiety might be getting to you.

Addressing the Stress and Anxiety:

Once you are able to recognize the signs, it’s time to take action. Start by acknowledging your feelings; that it's okay to feel stressed or anxious. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, or teacher. Sometimes, just sharing your worries can make them feel more manageable. Perhaps break tasks into manageable chunks: One of the main sources of stress in the IB is the immense workload. Break your tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and tackle them one at a time. This can help make your to-do list feel less daunting and more achievable. Moreover, many schools offer resources like counseling services, stress management workshops, and support groups. If you’re comfortable then don’t hesitate to use these services. In addition, establishing healthy habits is crucial for maintaining mental health. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying physically active. Exercise can be a great way to relieve stress and boost your mood. Even a short walk can make a big difference. I’ll now go over a few aspects of addressing stress and anxiety in more detail.

Value of Sleep: Sleep is arguably the most important thing when talking about cognitive function; sleep is very important to us, IB students to cope with the high pressure and immense workload. As such, sleep deprivation has various negative impacts on us. For example, it can lead to difficulty concentrating, a decrease in memory function, and reduced problem-solving abilities. Moreover, according to Dr. Abhinav Singh, a sleep medicine physician, says that long-term sleep deprivation can cause an increased risk of health issues which include obesity, diabetes, and even cardiovascular disease.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Applying relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you stay grounded and reduce stress. Set aside a few minutes each day to practice these. It can help you stay calm and focused, especially during stressful times. In addition, journaling is a highly effective method that provides you with a safe space to let out your thoughts without being judged. It’s also a form of self-reflection which is very important for personal growth.

Time Management: Good time management can help reduce stress, as you’d have finished your work in a timely manner if you followed through. You should make a study schedule that includes regular breaks and time for relaxation that you believe you can follow through all the way. Do your tasks and focus on one thing at a time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Try using planners or calendars to stay organized and on track.

Stay Connected: Never isolate yourself. Try to stay connected with friends and family, as social support is key to managing stress. Make time for activities you enjoy and spend time with people who make you feel good; this will take your mind off what you have and allow you some time for relaxation.

Wrapping Everything Up and Some Personal Experiences

Just like you, I also experienced the overwhelming stress of the IB program, so I understand how you might feel, especially when you have university applications along with all your deadlines which usually make you feel stuck and lost. As I said before, always take things down one at a time, and don’t try to multitask, it doesn’t often work and if it even works, you’ll end up with a product you’ll be unsatisfied with.

Take advantage of the summer break between your first and second year of IB. This is what I did which allowed me to complete two of my IAs before entering my second year giving me a lot of leeway. Similarly, try finalizing college applications before the new year depending on when they open, this way you can give time to focus on the curriculum material and your TOK and EE, and this will lift off a huge chunk of stress from your shoulders. Obviously don’t forget to have fun during your vacations as having fun is equally as important as studying. In the end, remember it’s okay to ask for help when you struggle with your mental health. You’ve got this!