Self-compassion the key to less stress for uni students

Published 19 July 2016

Self-compassion has been identified as a key factor in helping university students mitigate stress, according to research by the University of New England.

Dr Natasha Loi and Mele Fong from the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences says the aim of the research was to look at the relationship between self-compassion and elements of distress, including stress and depression among university students.

“Self compassion is a relatively new concept that is gaining research momentum. We’ve looked at other solutions for when you are feeling depressed or stressed but we haven’t really thought of encouraging people to just be kind to yourself,” said Dr Loi.

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The research team focused on university students, as about 76% of individuals who experience mental disorders first develop this disorder before the age of 25.

300 students participated in an online questionnaire for the study.

“The average age of students on campus is younger than 25, so it is a good opportunity to reach those people. We also chose university students because of the stress associated with being at university.”

Dr Loi says the aim is to potentially look at intervention programs at a university level to help students.

“University can be a very challenging time and there are many demands and stresses students need to cope with such as assessments and homesickness. We want to investigate the possibility of incorporating programs within the existing support services at university that would help students develop skills in self-compassion.”

There is a lot of research out there suggesting that self-compassion can be useful in many different populations and circumstances according to Dr Loi.

“If you met someone who was depressed you would be empathetic towards them so it is a bit like turning the tables and being kind to yourself. Researchers have investigated many probable solutions with respect to stress and depression, but we don’t often think about simply being kind to ourselves. When we mistreat ourselves we only hurt ourselves further. If we were a bit nicer to ourselves and developed strategies associated with self-kindness we could potentially help ourselves cope when we encounter stress in our lives.”

She said the research showed the important role in the relationship between distress and depression and how students who are more self-compassionate experience greater well-being and less distress.

The paper, The Mediating Role of Self-compassion in Student Psychological Health, has been published in the Australian Psychologist.