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”
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.