As exam fever grips school-goers, there’s bound to be stress and anxiety. These can manifest in a number of ways, say Jane Clewlow, Deputy Head Academic at Brighton College Dubai and the College’s Lead Counsellor, Dr Lene Rensberg. They list the following markers to keep a watch out for:
- Expressing worrying thoughts,
- Being emotional,
- Not being able to concentrate,
- Negative self-talk,
- Sleep troubles,
- Confusion, and
- Losing touch with friends or isolating.
Clewlow and Dr Rensberg offer the following tips for helping children:
Use proven revision strategies: Making the most of revision time is essential so young people don’t feel like they are chained to their desks. As every person takes in information differently, we advise that you help your children to work out the ways in which they study most effectively. Some of the strategies they suggest are:
- Using flashcards,
- Completing past exam papers,
- Asking a member of the family to test them on key aspects of revision,
- Spaced practice, in which revision time is spaced out over time and topics are revisited multiple times so they’re not practised just once, and
- Interleaved practice, which encourages mixing up the types of material or problems within one study session, which helps learners to be more agile in an exam situation.
Start early and be prepared: Planning ahead, rather than leaving revision to the last minute will ensure a much better chance of exam success. Effective revision is not something that can be rushed, so helping your children develop a revision schedule that gives them enough time to properly absorb the information will take away unnecessary stress.
Effective revision is not something that can be rushed, so helping your children develop a revision schedule that gives them enough time to properly absorb the information will take away unnecessary stress.
Communicate the importance of good sleep: If children are getting enough sleep and feeling well-rested, they will be more inclined to wake up earlier and revise. They will also be more alert and be able to retain more of the information they are taking in. Getting enough sleep is not only very important the night before exams, but throughout the whole revision period.
His other tips for a good night’s rest are:
Turn your bedroom into a ‘sanctuary’ - free from electronic devices, textbooks, revision aides and other exam-related paraphernalia. If you use your room to study in, ensure all school work is packed away every night and not visible from your bed.
Establish a nightly routine: From a warm bath and a cup of warm milk/herbal tea to using a scented pillow spray and listening to calming music. Create an environment which is comfortable and free from anything exam-related.
Tech-free time: Ensure at least one-hour of tech-free time before bed. Remove any temptation by leaving phones and tablets outside of your room at night as their noise and light can interfere with sleeping. LCD screens on phones and tablets emit light that is blue enriched. This light influences the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and delays the release of the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin.
Create a relaxing learning environment: It is increasingly hard to focus and concentrate in a world full of distractions, so it is important for us to help find ways to block out the external noise and distractions to help teens make the most out of their revision time. Creating a comfortable and clear workspace which is removed from distractions and encouraging children to put technology on ‘do not disturb’ mode will help them to fully focus on the task in hand.
Don’t let your children put too much pressure on themselves. Let them know that you are proud of them for all their hard work and effort, and they are supported and loved for the person that they are, regardless of exam grades.
Take regular breaks: We want revision time to be as effective as possible so taking short breaks will help to avoid burnout and increase focus. Revising something for one hour over five days is much more effective than revising it once for five hours.
Prioritise good nutrition and exercise: Eating a balanced diet of nutritious food will not only help boost mood and morale, but it will supercharge brainpower and leave pupils feeling more energetic and focused. Reaching for fast food and caffeinated beverages throughout revision periods will spike blood sugar levels, while caffeine can often accelerate anxious and stressed feelings. Encouraging regular exercise will also help with focus and energy levels, as it gets the blood flowing throughout the body, which means better brain function and information retention. Sports and exercise can also be a welcome respite from revision too.
She says some things that help a child relax, thereby calming physical symptoms include:
1. Deep breathing exercises
2. Staying hydrated
3. Thirty minutes of exercise every day
4. Eating iron- and protein-rich food
5. Spending time laughing and relaxing with family
6. Listening to music
7. Talking to friends and family when overwhelmed
8. Eating 10 soaked almonds everyday. They are a good source of protein and vitamins and help in improving the growth of brain cells. They also have antioxidant properties.
Remind your children to keep calm and find their brave: Most importantly, don’t let your children put too much pressure on themselves. Let them know that you are proud of them for all their hard work and effort, and they are supported and loved for the person that they are, regardless of exam grades. If you can help them to see assessments as an opportunity to shine, rather than a terrifying ordeal – you’re winning.
Breathe deeply through your nose and as you do, visualise the colour blue, or the sea or sky.
Breathe out through your mouth, visualising the colour red releasing from your mouth.
“Learn to bring your attention gently back to the present moment, using all of your senses,” she adds.
What five things can you see that are the colour yellow?
What four things can you hear?
What three things can you feel or touch?
What are the two things you can smell or perhaps consider your favourite smells?
What is the one thing you can taste?
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