Exam season often has the added baggage of stress and anxiety and, for many parents and students, this can be overwhelming. What's best to deal with this?
In preparation for the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams, we have some advice on how to stay well this exam period.
Paul Gilligan, Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, says: “Every young person approaches this life event differently; some frantically try to drain every moment of study available to them, while others become overwhelmed by the whole situation and ignore it".
“Unfortunately, giving advice that suits every single person is not possible, but we do know that these exams can be anxiety-provoking for many young people and their parents. However, the following tips should be of help to some".
Issue – More stress and less patience than usual
Solution – Give yourself a break, this is normal
As we get more stressed and tense, we will notice that we have less patience than usual, our fuse is shorter and we tend to get upset more easily. This is a totally normal response to the pressure and anxiety of such a large event.
Try not to give yourself too hard a time. If you are not in the best form over the next few weeks, remember, your family love you and they understand. Communication is essential; by letting your family know when you are stressed, they will be able to listen and help.
Issue – Don’t feel prepared
Solution – Try not to focus too much on what you haven’t done
It’s easy to get caught up on all the knowledge you haven’t obtained, instead of focusing on all the learning you have actually done. Remaining positive and trusting the work you have put in will stand to you in moments of high pressure.
You know more than you think! Trust that all you have done will come back to you in the moment when you need it and it will.
Issue – Feeling overwhelmed and stressed by study
Solution – Allow your brain a rest
It is important in the coming weeks that you allow your brain to rest and be prepared. Draining yourself of every bit of available energy will leave you vulnerable and feeling unwell. Eat well, get some fresh air, and try to sleep as well as you can.
Also, don’t get distracted by those around you; ignore fellow students who say they are doing 25 hours study a day and those who say they are doing nothing, but really are.
Do your own thing!
Issue – Exam didn’t go the way you wanted
Solution – Remember the most important ‘A’ is an ‘A’ in emotional health
Despite what you’ve been hearing all along, these exams are not the “be all and end all”. It is not as life-defining as it is often made out!
We are aware that, to you, it is huge and that’s fine. However, try not to give yourself a hard time.
Very often, you have done far better than you think, so give yourself a small break and move onto the next exam!
Issue – Fear that this will never be over
Solution – Remember, you’re nearly there…
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the exam stress and feel like it will never be over, but soon you will be looking back wondering where all the time went.
Enjoy the winding down from school and don’t let the exam stress overshadow this important goodbye.
This will pass! There is no person in the world who still suffers from Leaving Cert anxiety 20 years on; although some of us will still dream about it, we have got over it and you will too.
And remember, you’re nearly there…