5 Top Tips to Help Manage Stress During Exam Season
Exam season is notoriously stressful for everyone - parents and teenagers alike. When you’re in the middle of it all, it can be hard to stop the pressure from getting to you - especially when it feels like there’s a lot riding on the results.
But even though exam season has already started, there are some steps you take to try and make it all a little more manageable.
Spotting the signs of stress
Stress can show up in many different ways and not everyone reacts to stressful situations in the same way. Here are some of the common signs to look out for if you suspect exam season is causing stress:
- Not eating properly
- Not sleeping
- Changes in mood: snappier/tearful/worried
- Withdrawal from friends/family
- Avoiding revision
- Avoiding any sort of communication
- Getting lots of headaches and stomach pains
- Not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
If you do spot the signs, here are a few ways to help your teen through:
#1 Try to be flexible about chores during exam times
Revision naturally jumps to the top of the to-do list during exams. So, try not to worry or pester your teen about their bedroom being untidy or chores that they’re skipping during this time. While a messy room might not be ideal, sorting out the pile of clothes on the floor is low down the priority list for them at this time.
Remember: exams don’t last forever and they’ll be plenty of time to get them to help out over the summer.
#2 Talk to them about exam nerves and establish what they’re worried about
The first step is to reassure them that feeling anxious is completely normal, especially when they've been working hard and want to do well. The key is to help them channel those nerves into something positive.
If anxiety seems to be taking over, it can be helpful to get them to walk-through some of the tasks that they do on exam day. This approach can help it to feel less daunting when they do it for real. For example, you could help them do practice papers under exam conditions at home. Or prep their bag and keep it by the front door, so they have everything ready well before the exams start and can just grab it on their way out.
#3 Try not to add extra pressure
A lot of teenagers feel pressure from their parents and family to do well in their exams.
Try to support them and give lots of positive encouragement, but avoid criticism - especially if it’s a subject that you like but they don’t enjoy. Before they go in for an exam, be reassuring and positive, but also let them know that failing isn't the end of the world. If things don't go well, they may be able to take the exam again.
After the exam is over, don’t force them to talk it through with you. If they want to go through, question by question, it’s their choice. But, with so many exams to get through, they may not want to dwell on one that they didn’t think went well. Let them move on and focus on the next test, rather than stewing over things that can't be changed.
#4 Stock the fridge with lots of (healthy) snacks
Dealing with packed exam timetables and unfamiliar schedules often mean students can end up rushing meals or eating what they can grab fast. Help them make good food choices by keeping the fridge and cupboards stocked with easy to grab snacks, so that your teen has something to hand when their stomach starts to grumble.
Some people struggle to eat when stressed. Others are so focused on revision, they lose track of time and work through meals. Help them out by keeping food they like in the house. Check-in with them before doing the weekly food shop, to see if there’s something they’d like to have, as they’re more likely to remember to eat if it’s something they enjoy.
#5 Make time for fun things too
Think through some rewards for doing revision and getting through each exam. This will provide a helpful and encouraging incentive to achieve their goals. These rewards and time outs can include simple things like making their favourite meal or a trip into town.
But make sure it’s something that they really do love, you want them to feel driven towards the goal. Then, when the exams are over, help them celebrate their success. This could be by organising an end-of-exams party or get together with their friends. Regardless, let them know that you’re proud of their hard work.
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