Highly topical article by Josie Ballenden……
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE:
Looming exams can trigger anxiety in all of us. Here are some practical tips to see you through those tough weeks leading up to the exams and during them.
- Be prepared – start studying now! The more you can study in the weeks leading up to the exam and the less you rely on cramming, the more in control you will feel and the less stressed you will feel.
- Learn some exam taking strategies. Again, when we have a plan we feel more confident.
- Turn unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones – For example if all you can think is “I am definitely going to fail this exam” try thinking “I can do my best, taking one question at a time”.
- Breathe and slow down – when we get anxious, either just from thinking about studying, or in the exam itself, our heart rate increases and we can feel as though we can’t think straight. Try and stop and take a deep breath, close your eyes and take another breath, tell yourself “I am just going to give it a go, I can totally do this”. Open your eyes and go for it.
- Look after your body and your brain – Get some exercise, a good nights sleep and eat as healthily as you can.
- Fun!!! – Don’t forget to make time to have fun, hang out with friends or do whatever gives your brain a chance to switch off from thinking about exams.
- Talk to someone – Chat to friends or family about how you are feeling, sometimes just doing this can help you get some perspective when you are feeling out of control. Think about chatting to people who you know will support you, avoid those you know will make you feel worse…you know who they are!
Don’t be afraid to reach out – If you really feel like you are not coping reach out for help, whether that is at school, college, university or by seeing a counsellor.
Being a parent to stressed out children can be challenging, difficult and exhausting. Managing the reality of day to day family living with stressed out children and managing your own anxiety for your child and exam result expectations can take a big toll on your own ability to cope. You need to try and balance caring for your children with your own care.
The best way to support your child is by reducing your own stress as much as possible in your own work and personal life. This means that you will be better able to cope with your child’s anxiety and ensuing behaviour. It’s tough! Make sure you make time even if it’s only for a few minutes a day just for yourself, take some exercise, nourish your body and get some sleep. However, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to do so, we all live hectic lives, you too can only do your best!
Reach out for help, being a parent is hard work and sometimes it can get the better of us. Talking through your own feelings with a counsellor can often help to regain a sense of self and control over our lives which, if missing, can make us feel lost, angry and resentful.
Josie Ballenden (MBACP Reg)
Counsellor Adult, Children and Young People