Exam season is inevitably associated with words like stress, tension, worries and pressures in our minds. As the exam season approaches, stress levels suddenly begin to increase. And this is not only for the students, but also for their parents, teachers, tutors, family members at large! Therefore, besides the academic workloads, exam stress could be stemming from a variety of additional stressors, varying from the worry of their parents, the expectations of the teachers, the comparison and competition with their peers, or the nagging from their tutors.
Handling exam stress for students
While examinations are an inevitable part of every student’s life, as much as they might wish to escape it, they are an unavoidable challenge. However, how the students perceive and deal with these exams would dictate, to a large extent, their experience and their approach towards such challenges as a part of their lives. Exam stress is the result of an interaction between various factors, including both the focus on improving studying skills, as well as learning to cope with external factors associated with exam times. This interplay is inevitable for not just school or college examinations, but even more so for the various competitive and entrance examinations which are gaining increasing popularity these days. Exams do not always have to imply last minute flurries!
- Ensure an adequate sleep. Contrary to the popular saying, you need not burn the midnight lamp to study before an exam. Instead, plan your studies, and ensure that you get an adequate sleep, especially before the examination.
- Adopt healthy lifestyle choices. It is a myth that caffeine, or nicotine, can help improve your concentration during exams. On the contrary, they are likely to increase your anxiety levels, thereby making you feel more stressed! Therefore pay attention to your health, and focus on maintaining a regular and healthy lifestyle.
- Tackle peer pressure. Avoid making comparisons between your work and anyone else’s. Instead, you should work towards fulfilling your own expectations from yourself.
- “To-do’s” before and after an exam. The morning of an exam is not the time to have frantic last minute revisions, which would only lead to confusion and stress. Worrying about the previous paper will not help you prepare for the next one.
- Remember, it is normal to feel anxious during exams. But you must talk about the way you feel. You could share your feelings with your friends, your parents, teachers or a professional. If you find it difficult to cope, remember there are always people around who can help you.
Dealing with parental stress
While exam stress is more direct and obvious, for parents, it’s often transferred. Despite of their own anxieties and worries regarding their child’s performance in their exams, it is important for the parents to be able to serve as an encouraging support system for the children during these times.
- Focus on your child’s efforts. Performance in the exams could be dependent on multiple factors which may not be in your or your child’s control. However, it is important for you as a parent to direct your attention to your child’s efforts.
- Ensure that you do not add to their pressure. As parents, it is your role to help the children assume responsibility for their own performance, and they should recognize you as a support system. However, it is important to differentiate between motivating and pressurizing your child, so remember to maintain a balance!
- Serve as a support system. As parents, help your child by providing a positive environment for the child. Help the child in maintaining a regular routine and healthy lifestyle. Be there for your children to hear them out and provide a listening ear. Do not discourage all extra-curricular activities during exams, as each child needs to take regular breaks from studies.
- Remember, exams are a not the end of life. As a parent, it is important both for you to remember, and also help your child to understand that exams are just one part of a lifetime. They are not the only deciding factors of the child’s future, but are simply a stepping stone.
Be calm! Remember, as much as you might attempt to camouflage your own anxieties and worries, it is inevitable that your child will be able to see through it. While worrying about your child’s future is normal, it is more important for you to be able to handle your stress effectively, in order to prevent any adverse impact on the child’s preparation and performance.
Author: Dr Samir Parikh