While a small amount of stress can help your child to stay focused at exam time, too much stress can have the opposite effect, making him or her unmotivated and unable to concentrate.
The following symptoms will describe most teenagers at exam time. It is normal to experience some or all of them at these high pressure times.
Indications your child may be suffering stress include:
- Losing touch with friends and activities
- Inability to sleep soundly
- Easily irritated and feeling low
- Lack of motivation
- Increased heart rate or feeling sick
If however, the symptoms persist once exams are over, or if they are consistent and last for four weeks or more, seek advice from a medical practitioner.
There are things your child can do to alleviate the effects of exam stress. The key is to be prepared, be dedicated to homework and study and have strategies to help relieve the symptoms. We provide 12 ways to manage stress during exams:
1. Prepare and be ready
Have a study plan, allocate sufficient time for study, prepare notes, practice past papers and DON’T cram. Pack everything you need for an exam the night before e.g. sharpened pencils, pens, tissues etc.
2. Have an organised study area
Ensure you have everything to hand that you will need to study and that the area is clear and uncluttered.
3. Take regular breaks
Take regular breaks during study to rest your mind and allow you to focus better when you are studying.
4. Stick to a routine
Study at a regular time, eat dinner at a regular time, exercise at a set time and go to bed at a regular time (don’t pull all-nighters!). Don’t forget to give yourself mini rewards for completing tasks, like going for run, playing with a pet or talking to friends. Maintaining regular exercise helps keep you focused and can provide an outlet to relieve stress and pressure.
5. Nip stress in the bud
If you feel things are starting to get on top of you, take some time out to lie down, breath in deeply and listen to music to calm down and refocus.
6. Unwind and get a good night’s sleep
Don’t go to bed with your mind racing about the study you have just completed. Take some time out by reading a book or spending time with family. Try to go to bed and get up at the same times each day and ensure you get enough sleep.
7. Avoid stressful people
Stress and anxiousness can be contagious, so try and remain centred by avoiding classmates that may make you nervous and worried.
Focus on your own work, don’t look around at what your classmates are doing and don’t compare yourself to them.
9. Watch your diet
Avoid drinking excess coffee, tea and energy drinks and eat a well-balanced diet. Go for high protein foods rather than high sugar foods as the boost sugar provides, is short-lived.
10. Control your breathing
If you find yourself panicking in an exam, stop and take the time to control your breathing. Slowly count to five as you breathe in, and again as you breathe out. Do this until you feel in control of your breathing.
Read the exam paper carefully, check the wording of the questions to make sure you are not missing anything, plan your time and reread and check your answers if time allows.
12. Avoid post-exam critiques
Avoid critiquing your responses and comparing them to those of your classmates. You can’t change your answers once the exam is over, so don’t revisit the exam as it may cause you to worry.
And finally some advice for parents – assure your child that although it doesn’t seem like it now, the exams are only for a short time in their life and the intensity and stress won’t last forever.
The Trinity difference
The Counselling Department at Trinity is staffed by registered psychologists who welcome contact from students or anyone in our parent community wanting to discuss concerns relating to their children.
Trinity is fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, and we pride ourselves on knowing, understanding and nurturing every student.
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