Mentally strong

A remedy for stress and the fear of failure

2020/07/01 by

The Centre for Educational Development and Technology (HDA) at TU Darmstadt not only wants to provide teachers and students with didactic tools but also with mental support – something that is not only important during the corona crisis. The new training course “Mentally strong in studies and teaching” has been online since June. It was developed by the teacher and mental coach Diana Seyfarth. The project is based on the methods of positive psychology and provides strategies to combat exam stress, anxiety blockages and other feelings of stress. The new course aims to promote the well-being of members of TU Darmstadt.

Mental strength can be learned.

Are you due to give a lecture in front of a packed lecture theatre? Do you have to speak in front of your fellow students and teachers? Do you want to successfully overcome a challenging situation in an exam and be capable of responding to follow-up questions in an accomplished manner? Some teachers and students suffer from a feeling of unease or sleepless nights in the days before these types of situations. Diana Seyfarth, a teaching graduate at the Centre for Educational Development and Technology at TU Darmstadt, is only too familiar with this problem. In the past, she used to divide the year into good and bad weeks. The good ones were those in which she was not expected to hold any lectures and workshops. “I suffered from terrible stage fright”, explains the 42-year-old teacher. Holding presentations in front of a group became a huge mental and emotional challenge for her. “I really suffered physically.”

"Fear is learned and it can be changed."

She tried lots of things including meditation, talking therapy and taking a break from work but nothing helped. She only experienced some improvement after learning about the mental resonance method and taking a corresponding course. It taught her how to transform emotional blockages, fears and negative thoughts into positive energy. “It really worked”, says Seyfarth. “Fear is something we learn and which can be changed.” She is now no longer worried about appearing in front of an audience. “I even look forward to it.”

A success story that the teacher – who has also completed additional training as a mental coach – also wants to pass on to others with the help of the “Mentally strong in studies and teaching” project. The self-training measures and courses have been available online at since June. Seyfarth investigated various methods for achieving emotional and mental balance over a period of two years and is delighted that she is now able to offer these methods at TU Darmstadt. This includes teaching others how to enjoy giving presentations and lectures, how to cope with fear (of failure), how to remain mentally and emotionally strong during teaching courses or examinations or how to reduce feelings of stress. A variety of different strategies and methods are presented, such as thought stopping, the zoom technique and reasoning techniques to combat negative thoughts, yet also really practical tips such as special yoga exercises.

Accessible online during the corona crisis

A first trial course called “Mental resonance for teachers” was held in the 2019/20 winter semester. “We wanted to see whether there was even a demand for this type of course at a technical university”, she explains. It was very popular – the course was quickly booked up and, in many cases, even led to individual coaching sessions. The course is now being held for teachers for a second time and also as a pilot course for students, especially student teachers. The course is available online during the corona crisis but Seyfarth is also available for personal discussions.

“Mentally strong in studies and teaching” is primarily designed as a preventative measure. However, she recommends that anyone with acute anxiety and stress disorders should seek professional psychosocial counselling instead. Nevertheless, Seyfarth hopes that this still relatively new project will help to prevent the situation becoming so serious. Her aim is to pass on methods to combat “your imagination running wild, thought spirals or behavioural patterns in response to fear. This is something that people can learn and we offer many self-training guides for this purpose.” The need for these types of solutions has increased during the corona pandemic. The virus has caused a great deal of insecurity and amplified fears and stress situations. The members of TU Darmstadt have also seen the world suddenly turned on its head. “Mental and emotional balance is thus even more important than ever”, according to the HDA employee.

The Health Management Team is onboard

The project initially received funding for one year from QSL funds and there are already good signs that this funding will be extended. Cooperation partners include the Centre for Teacher Training and Health Management at TU Darmstadt. Elke Böhme, Head of Health Management, believes that this project makes another contribution to enhancing the profile of the university as an attractive employer. “Mindfulness has long been a theme within health management at TU Darmstadt”, she emphasises. For example, the university offers special services such as a meditative lunch break for members of the university. The goal is to strengthen their well-being and reduce stress. Elke Böhme believes that “Mentally strong in studies and teaching” fits in very well with this concept.

The new tool will also be closely examined from a scientific perspective. Bernhard Schmitz, Professor emeritus for Educational Psychology, is accompanying the project and investigating the effectiveness of the courses.