EXAM STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Around 80 percent of students in Classes 9-12 suffer from anxiety due to exams and results – Survey by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) published in Sep 2022.
Almost 2500 people commit suicide every year due to failure in exams. In the last 7 years between 2014 to 2020, the country has lost 12,582 lives due to stress caused by exams – National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
Yes, these are very alarming statistics. With exam time just around the corner, both students and parents go into frenzy mode. Stress and anxiety levels shoot up and very often the situation becomes explosive at home. This is especially so during the crucial years of 10 th and 12 th .
So why do stress levels escalate during exam time? Among the primary causes of exam stress is the pressure to perform and meet expectations, worrying about the ability to cope with the rigorous schedules, overwhelming thoughts about the future, and finding it difficult to focus.
Stress is a response to pressure. While a certain amount of pressure is needed to maintain focus during exam time, an excess of it can make studying impossible. As a parent, it is necessary that you learn to spot the signs of exam stress in your child and take remedial measures at the earliest.
Signs of Exam Stress:
- Being withdrawn from friends or activities normally enjoyed.
- Mood swings; grumpy, irritable.
- Loss of appetite or overeating.
- Poor sleep patterns, night sweats, and struggling to get out of bed.
- Not motivated to study or being holed up in the room for long hours studying.
- Tension, headaches, sweaty palms, digestive disorders, panic attacks, and feeling sick.
- Being fidgety, nail-biting, teeth-grinding.
- A state of confusion or forgetfulness.
These stress responses tend to aggravate as the exam time draws closer.
So how can you as a parent support your child during exam time? Before we examine some of the exam stress management strategies you could employ, perhaps a little bit of introspection is needed for you to understand how you could be contributing to your child’s stress and adopt a change in mindset and approach.
What do we mean?
It simply means – Do not add more pressure on your child for reasons you think are right. Criticizing your child, scolding them, insisting that they spend the entire time studying, harping on marks, comparing them to their siblings or other children, etc will only demotivate your child who will begin to feel incompetent. This will affect grades further and could also lead to depression and suicidal thoughts in extreme cases.
Your child is already experiencing the fear of exams and your constant bickering will only add to it. Your perception that marks are the only measure of intelligence and placing too much weightage on marks results in excessive pressure on your child to outperform in exams.
As a parent, you need to be a tool of motivation and encouragement for your child and your primary role is to provide a supportive home environment where your child can learn and prepare for exams. Do not overburden them with unrealistic expectations.
Having understood that, you will now be in a better position to support your child and make exam time less stressful.
EXAM STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
1. Time Management:
This is the key. Help your child get into a routine and work smart.
Prepare a schedule or timetable:
Decide on subjects to be covered during the day, topics, duration of study for each topic, revision time, and include timed breaks. Indulging in exercise or some physical activity, meditation, listening to music, etc in between studies can help them feel re-energized. Studying at a stretch is impossible as the attention span of the brain is limited and trying to do so is unhealthy and unproductive.
Monitor their progress:
You might be caught up with work or your busy schedule, but you need to allocate some time to monitor your child’s progress. Putting off exam preparation till the last minute will only add to the pressure and exam stress. Preparing in advance with sufficient time for revision will help your child understand the subject thoroughly and minimize the fear of exams.
Give sleep importance:
Studying very late into the night and getting up very early can result in sleep deprivation and this affects cognitive functions. Here is the equation:
Better sleep = Better mood = Better absorption capacity = Better recall capacity = Better grades.
Keep tabs on their recreation time:
While it is very important to schedule recreation during the day, exam time is crunch time and it is very important to prioritize tasks and undertake activities that are productive. For instance, watching TV late into the night might not be a good idea as it could escalate exam stress the next morning.
Encourage an early start to the day:
Related to the above, if a proper schedule of study time, recreation time and sleep time is maintained, then it becomes easier to wake up early and have more time to accomplish tasks without added pressure.
2. Set up an ideal study environment:
A nice quiet place with minimal distractions and no clutter will be ideal. Ensure that all items unrelated to study are removed – phones and other electronic gadgets, gaming devices, etc. so focus is maintained while studying. The right atmosphere will boost performance.
3. Revision time with your child:
If you have the time and if it is something your child wants, encourage them to revise with you. Sometimes just the very act of saying things out aloud will help them obtain clarity on whether they have grasped the subject or still need to work on it.
4. Communicate with your child:
This is a very stressful period for your child and kids need emotional support from their parents. Talking to your kid, addressing concerns about exam stress and anxiety, self-doubt, and providing assurance that it is normal to go through these feelings will put them at ease. Do not brush off their worries and anxieties, but rather be an attentive listener. This will keep them motivated to study and perform well.
5. Watch what they eat:
Often with exam stress the desire to binge on junk food can be very tempting. However, one has to be conscious that food and drinks which are high in fat, sugar and caffeine are best avoided as they could cause lethargy, irritation, mood swings and hyperactivity. As a result, your child’s focus and concentration are affected, studying becomes difficult and grades are affected. Take care of their diet.
6. Remain calm:
This is of paramount importance. Panicky parents can transfer stress and anxiety to their children. Granted, it is difficult to remain calm during this time, but you might need to “fake it” so your child does not pick up signals which will compound existing fears. Find ways to de-stress yourself. Understand that exams are not the be-all and end-all of life. The current generation has a wide range of career options to choose from and not just the conventional doctor, lawyer, or engineer professions. So relax, make learning enjoyable for your ward and help them see the positive side of exams as well.
Hope these Exam Stress Management Strategies will help you and your child overcome exam fear and anxiety. If either of you is still struggling to cope, it will be wise to get the help of a professional Counsellor.
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