Do you remember the anxiety you used to feel before school exams? Maybe you’ve recently taken an exam yourself? While many teenagers are able to cope with this stress, research shows that up to 20 to 40 % feel so anxious they struggle to focus and lose valuable marks in their exam. The very thing they were so worried about becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Help your teenager with the following tips:
- We are rarely motivated to revise – suggest they decide to do something for just 10 minutes. Once started they’ll find they are more motivated to carry on.
- Encourage them to plan a realistic timetable in advance and don’t forget to make sure they schedule breaks.
- Make sure they organise regular rewards eg. watching a favourite TV show.
- Let them know about apps which can block social media while they’re revising eg. SelfControl or Cold Turkey.
- Support them to have regular breaks – tell them their brain will be much more productive for it.
- Teach and get them to practice a breathing technique to use before and during the exam if anxiety starts to increase. Breathe deeply to the count of 4, breathe out slowly to the count of 4 and pause for 2 seconds before breathing in again.
- Encourage them to schedule regular exercise, eg a brisk walk while listening to their favourite music.
- Our minds can be inundated with negative automatic thoughts which come into our minds without us wanting them to, eg – “I will fail”, or “I’ll be so nervous I’ll forget everything”. Tell them this is normal BUT they are only thoughts NOT true facts and they don’t have to believe them. Support them to practice challenging these negative thoughts with realistic alternatives. For example, to imagine themselves in the exam room and being able to answer the questions and to say more realistic things to themselves, for example, “ I will revise regularly and try my best”, or “ I have done well enough before, I can do well enough again.”
- Remind them that a small amount anxiety is normal and will help their brain work more efficiently during the exam.
- Recommend they resist the temptation to go through answers with friends afterwards – this usually creates MORE anxiety and worry, which definitely isn’t what they need if they have more exams ahead!
- Finally, tell them not to forget there is life beyond revision and exams and how life will be when the exam season is over.