As students all across Ireland settle in to the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams the HSE is encouraging them to spot the signs of stress and to know how to manage anxiety related to their exams.
Stress levels can be higher than usual around exam time. While a bit of stress can help you to stay motivated and focused, too much can be unhelpful.
Mark Smyth, Senior Clinical Psychologist, HSE says, “Exam time can be an anxious, stressful and potentially overwhelming experience. Remember, test taking anxiety is normal, and because anxiety is an emotion it will pass if you give it time. The more you fight it the longer it will last. As the phrase goes, “If you see a wave coming, grab a surfboard.”
He has also provided the following helpful tips on how best to manage exam stress:
- Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do to help you perform well in exams and stay focused during study. Try to wind down before going to sleep. You don’t go from fifth gear straight to first gear when driving a car; your mind works similarly and needs time to slow down before sleep.
- Eat: Try to eat regularly and stay hydrated. Continuing the car analogy, a car won’t run without petrol. Eat regular meals and eat well: this will help your ability to think, concentrate and last the distance.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help to relieve some of the stress build-up and improve your mood. Build it into your plan: walk the dog, go for a swim or cycle or anything that gets you active.
- Downtime: Make time for some fun, it’s not only allowed, it’s recommended. Schedule things you enjoy doing at weekends or during breaks between exams.
- Try to keep some perspective: Ask yourself the question: In 10 years’ time are you likely to remember what grades you got in the exams?” It’s unlikely.
- Post-mortems: Dwelling on what has already happened will only mess with your head. It doesn’t help because you can’t change the past. With social media and instant messaging there’s a temptation to take the post-mortem online, and this is also unlikely to be helpful. Try to leave the last exam behind you and focus on what you can do, which is the next exam.
- Exams don’t define you as a person: We’re all more interesting and important than a grade on an exam.
How parents can help
The HSE is also urging parents and family members to be aware of potential stress during exam time and to support their child/children as best they can and has provided parents with some tips to help with stress during exam time:
- Try and encourage your child to eat well.
- Remind them of the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
- Be flexible (household chores can wait).
- Talk to you child about exam nerves.
- Encourage exercise.
- Don’t add to the pressure.
Local supports in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon
The West Be Well website has a comprehensive listing of local and national mental health supports for people of all ages who may be struggling with a range of issues.
The West Be Well team has recently added a new Exam Stress Resources page to the website where they have collated a wealth of helpful information for parents and students seeking to manage the stress and anxiety that can often be experienced around exam time.
You’ll find the page HERE.