Exams are just around the corner for many students. As parents we want to help avoid exam stress as much as possible. These practical tips for parents to help with exam stress will also help you to gain a better understanding of how stress works.
How Stress Works
To combat stress we must first have an idea of how it works. We have all heard of the ’fight or flight’ reaction. This is inbuilt in our DNA and when we face a stressful situation or challenge our first instinct is flight or fight.
This flight or fight reaction is caused by raised levels of ‘cortisol’. Once the stress passes the ‘cortisol’ levels quickly return to normal. This is true for all mammals.
However, in humans, we have become less able to rebalance our cortisol levels as our world constantly challenges and pressurises us. All too often we allow stress to grow and grow until it takes hold and controls us.
Recognise the Signs of Stress
The build up of stress can affect both your physical and mental health. Key indicators of stress build up include:
- Mild panic attacks
- Broken sleep which leads to exhaustion
- Heart palpitations
- Outbreaks of eczema, psoriasis and acne
- Irritability/short fuse
- Appetite changes
- Muscle pain and tightness
- Shortness of breath
Know the signs of stress and manage it to avoid stress building up. Persistent high levels of stress, can impair memory absorption and recall, learning focus and decision making. A stressed body and mind is unable to operate at peak performance. For extreme cases, seek medical advice.
We need to encourage our children to let stress go in the lead up to exams.
9 Practical Tips to Help with Exam Stress
#1. Exercise to Energise
Encourage your teen to include time each day for exercise or sport. Even 20 minutes out in the fresh air can help. Remind them while they are studying to get up and walk around for a minute every half hour. This re-energises the body and refocuses the mind.
#2. Eat Properly
It is important to eat a well balanced diet in the lead up to exams to nourish and energise the body and mind. All too often teens grab high sugar snacks and drinks to see them through but, with a bit of planning, you can create quick and healthy alternatives.
#3. Deep Breathing Exercises
Encourage your teen to go out into the fresh air and inhale deep breaths deep into their lungs. Hold for a moment and exhale slowly. This breathing exercise helps get more oxygen into the blood stream and will make them feel energised.
#4. Stay Hydrated
Water, water and more water is key to combat dehydration. Make sure your teen has water going into every exam to help cleanse away toxins and keep headaches at bay.
Laughing naturally exercises all the muscles in your stomach area and will automatically improve breathing and relieve tension. Laughing also releases happiness hormones into the body and is contagious so it makes people around you laugh too.
So think about something that made you laugh out loud and relive the moment!
#6. Hug a Human
Remind your teen that’s it good to give their Mum, Dad, sibling or best friend a hug. Or a simple shoulder and head massage for two minutes.
This releases the happiness hormones – dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin and phenethylamine and will help relieve stress and tension.
#7. Play with a Pet
Send the family dog into your teen’s study spot so they can take a 10 minute break to have a cuddle and play with your pet.
#8. Think Positive Thoughts
Positive thinking leads to positive emotions and a general feeling of well-being and control. Reinforce the message that your teen has worked hard and the knowledge is in there just waiting to flow out in the exam.
If an exam doesn’t go their way, don’t dwell on it, let them talk it through only if they want to and help them to move on.
#9. Have a Soak
A soak in a warm tub helps ease away worries, tension and stress. You will emerge feeling good in mind, body and spirit and go on to enjoy a great night’s sleep.