EXAM STRESS

Australian Health Today - - Contents - By Mer­ri­lyn Hughes | Coun­sel­lor

Whether it’s high school fi­nal ex­ams in year 12, or uni­ver­sity or col­lege ex­ams, most stu­dents study hard to pre­pare but many ne­glect the emo­tional prepa­ra­tion for ex­ams.The stress of study and the anx­i­ety of ex­ams can cause a stu­dent to un­der­achieve, and an ef­fort must be put into emo­tional health and well-be­ing as well to en­sure suc­cess. Ac­cord­ing to on­linecol­lege­classes.com, stress is the num­ber 1 fac­tor in aca­demic dis­rup­tion. Their re­search has found that one in five stu­dents felt too stressed to study or be with friends and one in five stu­dents con­sid­ered drop­ping out of school be­cause of stress-re­lated anx­i­ety. An­other UK study found that 96% of stu­dents sur­veyed felt anx­ious about ex­ams and re­vi­sion. A re­cent Aus­tralian study showed that 42% of year 12 stu­dents suf­fered high lev­els of anx­i­ety due to exam pres­sure.

Mid-year ex­ams are usu­ally the cat­a­lyst for stu­dents seek­ing help with exam stress and anx­i­ety. The horse has bolted and with ex­ams loom­ing for some, whilst in the midst for oth­ers, learn­ing strate­gies for stress-free study and anx­i­ety-free ex­ams are best done early in the year, and way in ad­vance. In fact, de­vel­op­ing a healthy study habit and de­vel­op­ing a rou­tine from the out­set is

ben­e­fi­cial. It is cre­at­ing that rou­tine that can some­times be chal­leng­ing.

The se­cret to stress-free study is bal­ance.To achieve this bal­ance most teenagers need to sched­ule and man­age their time. En­sur­ing the time is there to do other things, such as to ex­er­cise, re­lax, so­cialise, sleep and to carry out the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties par­ents and guardians de­mand, is key. Life can be over­whelm­ing with­out or­gan­i­sa­tion, time man­age­ment and plan­ning.

A client age 15 said to me re­cently, “It’s not just my study that’s im­proved, I feel hap­pier all the time”. Or­gan­i­sa­tion and bal­ance are great tools for im­prov­ing your well­be­ing and gen­er­ally mak­ing life more en­joy­able. Mul­ti­task­ing can some­times lead to medi­ocrity, how­ever, some tasks de­mand our full at­ten­tion.

An­other teen client was as­tounded at how much clearer his thoughts were if he knew there would be no in­ter­rup­tions from his sib­lings, his par­ents, his friends and his phone – a strat­egy he found to be suc­cess­ful by set­ting the goals and stat­ing his ob­jec­tives to those around him.

To achieve max­i­mum suc­cess in each area of life, there needs to be un­in­ter­rupted fo­cus on that area. So when we are re­lax­ing that’s all we are do­ing; when we go to bed to sleep that’s all we are do­ing; when we are study­ing, there is no ex­cep­tion, our books should have our full at­ten­tion.

Some of th­ese tasks are dif­fi­cult to achieve in a world where tech­nol­ogy rules. Teens have to ask them­selves ques­tions like “how does my mo­bile phone help me to study, or to sleep?” If our goal is to achieve well in ex­ams then we need to hon­estly as­sess the role tech­nol­ogy plays in our lives. There is def­i­nitely a place in a stu­dent’s life for so­cial me­dia and chat­ting to friends but the ques­tion is “Is that time while I am study­ing or while I’m try­ing to sleep?” It is im­por­tant to sched­ule in that so­cial­is­ing time out­side of the times stu­dents need to study or sleep and to stick to that sched­ule.

This works best when friends agree on a spe­cific so­cial­is­ing time, maybe un­til 5pm and then switch so­cial­is­ing “off ” while other ar­eas are fo­cused on. Some stu­dents may need the as­sis­tance of a pro­gram like Fo­cal Fil­ter (see www.fo­cal­fil­ter.com), which al­lows you to block dis­trac­tions while you study.

In sep­a­rat­ing the fo­cuses in our life we also need to look at the phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion. Bed­rooms are for sleep­ing, they are our sanc­tu­ary. If we study in our sanc­tu­ary, child­hood con­di­tion­ing is lost.

This is based on the idea in Psy­chol­ogy that we are like Pavlov’s drool­ing dog and we at­tach cer­tain stim­uli in the en­vi­ron­ment to cer­tain thoughts and be­hav­iours. Fa­mously, Pavlov’s dogs would start drool­ing when a bell rang, be­cause they as­so­ci­ated hear­ing the bell with get­ting food. Even­tu­ally the dogs would drool at the sound of the bell even when they didn’t get any food. Sim­i­larly, as chil­dren we learn the bed­room is for sleep but if we as­so­ciate our bed­room with study, sleep is not the pri­or­ity.

“If you put in the work, the re­sults will come”

Michael Jor­dan

Quite of­ten the so­lu­tions are right be­fore our eyes, but we don’t see them be­cause we are in that emo­tional, stressed out state. Find­ing so­lu­tions that work for you is the ul­ti­mate an­swer. If you strug­gle to solve th­ese is­sues, please con­tact a coun­sel­lor who will help you work through the stres­sors in your life. Re­lief is usu­ally at­tain­able.

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