If it’s your HSC year, you probably have a conga line of advice-givers from here to the sun and back telling you to ‘relax’. This is great advice; but probably doesn’t seem helpful when you’re in the middle of exams. And assessments. And more exams.
Dr Rebecca Sng and her team at UOW might have a solution, though—an app that helps you relax. Specifically, ‘HSC Stress Less’ can help teach you mindfulness meditation techniques.
“In the simplest terms, mindfulness is the art of ‘intentional attention’,” says Dr Sng. “That is, being able to step back and observe, in a non-judgemental manner, our inner sensations and experiences. The app aims to provide this resource to young people in a form they were very familiar with.”
Dr Sng says many of the young people presenting at mental health services in the Illawarra describe their final year of high school as “extremely stressful”.
“We know from previous research that mindfulness meditation can assist with managing stress as well as symptoms of issues such as anxiety and depression,” Dr Sng says.
The app contains a series of audio-guided meditations that allow a student to build up their “mindfulness muscle” so that they are better able to "unstick" from stressful feelings. It also contains a number of short videos made by the Year 11 students explaining mindfulness and how it might be useful, as well as a reminder system that prompts students to practice their mindfulness skills.
Dr Sng, a practising clinical psychologist is passionate about helping young people and their families.
“We know that mental health difficulties in adolescence often lead to difficulties in adulthood if not treated. Mental health issues are so incredibly common and cost our society such a lot in terms of not only distress but also resources. It just makes sense to try and help young people gain the skills they need to manage these issues early.”
Dr Sng decided to create the app after writing a program using mindfulness skills for students at Strathfield Girls High School, in Sydney.
“I found students had trouble remembering to practice the skills between program sessions so I thought this app would help them do that,” she said.
Dr Sng said the HSC has the potential to bring to a head a number of other stressors for young people, whether that be problems with relationships or “ideas about having to be perfect to be valuable”, but every student has a different experience depending on their circumstances.
“Just because you’re all doing the HSC the year doesn’t mean you’re all the same. Everyone has different challenges and goals. Everyone has different resources available to them. The aim of tools like HSC Stress Less app is to give you the skills and space to think clearly about your priorities and values, so that you can decide how you would like to live them out.”
Originally published as Researchers Develop App to Help HSC Students Stress Less on 13 April 2015.