Students have a lot of stress especially during the exam period. It is more than vital for students to be able to manage stress if they want to succeed in the exams.
Exams themselves are a compelling experience that causes stress because the stakes are high: the dreams that students make for their lives, the beginning of a career, the expectations that they have for themselves, the expectations parents have for their children.
The exam stress is usually associated with the fear that students will disappoint their parents by their performance, and with the expectations they have about themselves.
This article outlines some very useful tips that can help students and parents understand what are the causes and symptoms of stress and how students can manage stress before, during and after the exam period.
Stress is dangerous and can have negative effects on our health when we it gets out of control. In such cases stress can:
- Limit the ability of our actual performance and
- Makes us suffer, both physically and mentally
Symptoms of Stress
Reduction of performance:
Difficulty in concentration, mental blockade (black out), difficulty in organizing information
Headaches, abdominal pains, sweating, tremor, nausea, muscle tension
Causes of examination Stress
Examination stress has many different sources. The combination of different factors, namely the thoughts and emotions that each student has, is responsible for creating the stress.
Lack of Self Confidence
Perhaps the number one cause that creates stress on students is the sense that they do not have the ability to cope with the demands of the exams. This is a subjective belief and really does not mean that the student does not have the skills to pass but fears that they do not have confidence in themselves.
Another critical factor that causes examination stress is intense competition for the limited available places in higher education. This means that some people will stay out of them. Another fear is that students believe that the effort made for reading will be “lost” if the student does not pass the exams.
Negative thoughts generated by the student before the exams are a very important cause of stress:
How difficult and endless is the material to study
How many things you have to remember
Fear of what will happen if they do not pass the exams
The believe that if they do not pass the exams their future will be lost and they will feel like a loser
During the days of the exams, students and parents redouble their efforts for success. These days the anxiety and stress of children as well as fear of possible failure in examinations grow. Certainly what is needed to know and remembered by students and parents is that to some extent, stress is normal and creative. Stress mobilizes us in difficult and challenging phases of our lives and helps us to make an effort to achieve our goals!
How to manage stress before the exams
Learn to face the exams, despite your fear for a possible failure!
- Take care for your good preparation
- Create a schedule – organize your time
- Do your exam revisions with your friends
- Test your skills and knowledge with other friends
- Meet with other friends and try to ask each other questions
- Try to explain to your friends what you have understood from studying, if you can explain to others, then you have understood … otherwise, you need further iterations!
Analyze the situation realistically
Take a piece of paper and write down what is exactly causing you stress and anxiety, next to each problem write possible solutions. Take a break and discuss with your parents or your teachers (if possible) your fears and concerns.
Visualize and beat your fears
Attempt a mental representation of the actual conditions that cause you stress (i.e. «imagine in detail the actual conditions that make you feel stressed…»). When you do that you will notice that the more often you imagine and visualize the exams the more familiar you will become with them…! When you can deal with your fears in your imagination, you can also deal with them in reality as well!
Organize your study environment appropriately
- Create a pleasant study environment, without strong lighting and sounds.
- Make sure that the room has enough fresh air
- Turn off TV, radio, and telephone. If there is still noise, you can use ear-protectors.
- Find a comfortable position and lie down or sit in such a way that the head, the neck and your shoulders are in a convenient alignment creating a channel for proper breathing.
- Empty your mind from any other thoughts.
Try relaxation exercises
- For 15 minutes per day, focus on diaphragmatic breathing and try to relax
- Replace your thoughts: “I won’t be afraid”, or “I will definitely succeed”, With more realistic thoughts: “Even if I am afraid, I will do everything I can to overcome any obstacles in order to achieve my goals”.
- Spend a little time for physical exercise on a daily basis
- Make sure to rest and sleep well
How to manage stress during the exams
During the exams, it is important to be stress free.
Always start completing an exam paper with what you know well. This will help you gain confidence and help you answer the more difficult questions.
Apply Conscious breathing
Knowing to apply correctly the process of breathing can help you relax, unwind and «clean» your mind, with only a few breaths. The conscious breathing, based on yoga techniques is a particular method for balancing the autonomous nervous system that affects psychological disorders and stressful conditions.
When you feel a wave of anxiety or stress coming in on you, group your attention to the way you breathe. Invite your breath to become slower, more integrated. Feel the air filling your lungs. Try to match how much air you breathe and how much air you let out. During exhale consider that you are getting stress out of your body.
How to manage stress after the exam
Make a gift to yourself; go out for a walk with a friend.
Vision you success and prepared yourself for the next day.
Relax as much as you can and try to engage with pleasant activities.
How parents can help their children to manage the exam stress
First of all make sure that you are available to hear the concerns and fears of your children, before you give any advice to them!
Try not to give advices that do not have to do anything with reality!
You can use any of the statements below to raise your children confidence:
«Anxiety of failure is normal»
«Even if you do not pass, there are alternatives…”
«If you do not pass the exam the only thing that will make my unhappy is that you will not be rewarded for your efforts…»
«Any failure is a learning opportunity! …”