That time of year is again rapidly approaching for your son/daughter. Exam stress whether in preparation for internal or external exams at school plays large part in every young learners’ psyche. Researchers have uncovered some common explanations for this. It can range from low motivation levels to lack of preparation and planning or high expectation from those close to them or simply competition from peers.
No matter how ‘’cool’’ and prepared you may feel exam stress and nerves can get to the best. The difference is that those who learn to develop strategies to cope are those that succeed. It is certainly natural to worry about exams but the key is as I say how to find methods to relax and think in a manaer that alleviates the concern.
Symptoms: So if I am feeling under pressure with the thought of exams what symptoms may come to the fore and how can I recognise them?
The key is to understand yourself well and know when you feel the work’s piling up. One of the more common symptoms could be just having difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning. You may also feel constantly tired and become as little forgetful. There are occasions where you might lose your appetite or lose interest in the activities you so often participate in with friends. Friends and family might see you being more anxious or irritable. There can also be physical side effects such as headaches or dizziness and your heart rate will inevitably at times increase too.
Strategies: So what can you do? Here are some suggestions along with the many others that one can find across the net.
One key aspect prior to embarking on revision is to remember you do your way but most importantly avoid distractions; leave that phone downstairs and give social media a miss. You can catch up later.
One strategy that is a personal favourite of mine is to listen to music, normally classical, as it creates a positive and productive environment and clams your mood and assists study. Other types of music that include lyrics have been found to be distracting when played whist working. However if you are want to relax I am sure there are plenty of genres that everyone find as mellow and soothing. But remember classical music is recommended as it supposedly boosts your brain power. I’m sure Spotify will help you choose!
Other consider methods that have been found to be effective could be that you try exercising or going for a walk. Again research suggests that these methods can boost your memory and brain power. Also meditation and just ensuring you get enough sleep are other ways to ‘’de-stress’’ yourself. Sleep helps your brain to put all the new knowledge into your long-term memory so that you can recall it when it comes to test day.
There are also certain ‘self-help’ ideas you may want to consider to avoid stress levels getting to high. It is always important that you plan your revision carefully, planned carefully it can ensure a productive environment where you are motivated to study. Don’t be afraid to set yourself mini goals and treats through the day if you complete your set tasks. Something that is always hugely beneficial when trying to avoid exam stress is the ability to distance yourself from those peer discussions where abilities are compared and approached or revisions differ. Or if it is after the exam where they analyse exactly what they included; remember you can’t change anything now! You’ve done your best and whose saying you’re not right.
Equally if times get tough then don’t be afraid to talk to someone. For many this is hugely cathartic when they speak to family or friends. It is certainly empowering as you being to move beyond that sinking feeling and raise above it and/or feel more in control.
If however when you get into the exam you feel that panic is setting in and your breathing becomes quick and you are taking shallow breaths, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose, counting to five each way.
So stress can be busted, and just remember to remind yourself how capable you are. Everyone has a talent or a gift and it will shine if you believe in yourself.
Head of Secondary,
Sunmarke School & Fortes Education