Managing Exam Stress - Symptoms, Influences, Helps to Relieve Child as a Parent
Created by Bhavna Updated on Mar 02, 2013
It is that time of the year when parents are stressed out because the children are stressed out. Yes, I am talking about exam stress.
I recently met Rashmi (a neighbor). Sakshi (her daughter) will be appearing for the class 10 board exams. While I was talking to Rashmi I was told that Sakshi was so stressed out one night that she sleepwalked to her mother’s room. She was agitated and scared and kept repeating “ mom, save her! She will commit suicide; I know she will, Mom… Save her” Rashmi tried to calm her daughter down and then slept with her the whole night so she may not have another nightmare but she realized one very important thing; Sakshi was an ace student and super confident but deep inside she was scared and stressed out because of the approaching examinations.
After a long talk, the next day Sakshi divulged that one of her friends had recently mentioned that it was easier to end her life than to live in the constant fear of exams and Failure.
What is Exam Stress??
If one may try to define “Exam stress” in layman’s terms then it could be the reaction that an individual might have, to excessive pressure or demands placed upon them. The stress levels are however subjective and may differ from one individual to another.
The most important fact that we need to realize is that pressure is good and brings positive results when it comes to deadlines and performances however when the same pressure is prolonged it could lead to the development of stress.
Is The Situation So Bad??
In 2006, 5857 students – or 16 a day – committed suicide across India due to Exam stress. These are just the official figures since for every one successful attempt, there are 8-9 unsuccessful or unreported stress induced suicide attempts.
( Source: TOI, March 2008 , Report)
Exam Stress Symptoms - How to Know that Your Child is Under Stress?
The response to a stressful situation or time may be different by different people. In fact, the response may differ between a male and a female too. Over the years research in this field has proven that when females experience exam stress they show internal symptoms and responses like Nausea, indigestion, feeling of butterflies in the stomach leading up to sadness and depression. On the other hand, males externalize their responses in the form of anger or feelings or irritability.
The two ways to deal with a stressful situation during exam time is, “Fight or Flight”. In both cases, an excessive amount of adrenalin is released in the body and that, in turn, leads to the following:
- Feeling Irritable and over the top reactions on normal situations (increase in yelling or crying).
- Negative Self Talk
- Sleep Deprivation.
- Waking up with a feeling of lethargy
- Palpitations (can hear/ feel the heartbeat loudly)
- Anxiety attacks (not being able to breathe, chest pains mimicking a heart attack)
- Antisocial behavior (refusing to meet with friends or step out of the house)
- Weight Loss or lack of appetite (no interest in food)
- Excessive sweating.
- Nightmares, Talking in sleep or sleep-walking.
What are the Influences that decide the Extent of Stress a Child May Feel?
Exam Preparation: How a student has prepared for a particular exam may be the deciding factor on the amount of stress that the student may feel. If a student is confident of the preparation and the content that s/he will be tested on, chances are that the stress levels may not be high.
Motivation: There are two types of motivations that are related to exam stress:
- Intrinsic - Students with intrinsic motivations are often inspired by the results or rewards that come along with success. This may mean that that the student may really want to learn and know about the subject at hand and hence will be less easily distracted, confused or stressed.
- Extrinsic - Students with extrinsic motivations are motivated by external factors. Sometimes rewards like a much-desired gadget or money may also be used as a motivator. The student may find it tougher to concentrate as s/he is not interested in the learning of the subject at hand but is more invested in the reward that can be achieved. This is the category of student that may feel a larger extent of the exam stress.
Self Confidence and Control- Research in recent times have shown that if a student believes in its ability to control and has confidence on the kind of exam performance that s/he is capable of then it is highly likely that such a student may experience low exam stress. Check: Exam Time Advice, Tips for Your child
How Can You Help as a Parent?
There are a number of things that one may do to help relieve some of the exam stress that your child may be going through:
- Be supportive and Tolerant- One of the most important things to do is to let the child know that no matter what the result, the bigger picture is that you will always love them. Reassuring a child may be the best thing to avoid exam stress.
- Help them maintain a routine- Discipline always plays a big role in a child’s life, especially in a stressful time. Ensuring that there is no break in the child’s routine will give the child stability and structure towards coping with the exam stress.
- Help in preparation- Encouraging the child to ask for help from peers or teachers may be a great way to minimize the stress.
- Study Tools- Making sure that the child has the appropriate tools to tackle the exams may be of great help. It could be anything from extra books, Mock test papers or simply a set of new stationery.
- Clean and uncluttered study environment- They say a cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind; similarly if one could make sure that the child’s room, study table is uncluttered it may diminish the negative vibe while studying.
- Fresh Healthy Food- Fruits that may be rich in vitamins and proteins such as leafy vegetables and fresh fruits are recommended as they facilitate in keeping the mind and body alert and full of energy. Also one may want to avoid junk food as it gives a sudden rush of sugar and then fall away very soon leaving the person tired, distracted and craving for more.
- Relaxation techniques- Introduction of the child to some of the relaxation techniques may have a long-lasting impact to curb exam stress. These could be anything from chanting a relaxing mantra to taking a walk outside.
- Encourage breaks- Reminding the child to take short breaks in between the study may lead to an increase in productiveness.
- Help them unwind- It is very important to unwind after a long and serious day. It could be as simple as recording your child’s favorite program on TV and watching it later or a bowl of popcorn and soup to go with some light music.
- Positive talk and attitude- Positive talk and attitude from the parent can go a long way. It might help in boosting the child’s confidence and in turn, reduce the exam stress.
Read More: Ways to Deal with Exam time Stress
Tips to Relieve from Exam Stress - You could suggest to Your Child During Exam:
Finally, the D- day has arrived and all the preparation that your child has done is going to be put to test. Once the child has gone off to the school there is little that you, as a parent can do. You could, however, prepare your child to cope with the exam stress in the examination hall.
Simple tricks that may help your child to recover from exam-time stress, are as follows:
- Reading the question paper thoroughly- Insist that your child first gives a thorough read to the question paper so s/he has a fair idea of what’s to come.
- Attempting the questions that the child knows first – If the child starts the paper with the questions that the child is very sure of, then it sets the mood for the time to come. The child starts to feel that the situation is under control and chances of confusion or anxiety are diminished.
- Re-reading the answers- It is always a good idea to go through the answers once before moving on to the next question. By doing this one reduces the margin of error.
- Practice relaxation techniques if distracted- There may be a time during the exam that the child could be distracted; practicing a predefined relaxation technique may help in keeping the focus together. This technique could be anything from looking at a distance, taking a pause to collect his/her thoughts and getting back to the exam or just taking a couple of deep breaths to refocus.
- Visualize the end goal- This may just be the best trick to go through the exam time with a level and focused head. It helps most of the time to look at the bigger picture and not let the fear take over. Read Tips to Reduce Exam time Stress
While I was still thinking about how I could help my neighbor and her daughter, I found out that there is a helpline to help students cope with mental stress. It is started by Max Healthcare Hospital from 10 am to 5 pm and the phone no is 011- 98118-96286. Students with exam stress will be helped through telephonic counseling.
Let's make sure that we appreciate our children, acknowledge the stress that they can experience and help them have a safe and stress-free exam time.
Image source - www.nydailynews.com
| Apr 21, 2018
My child is 11 years old he is very lazy. And he is not interact with other person . How can I improve him ?
| Mar 04, 2017
nicely written and very helpful
| Jul 10, 2015
Very well written blog Bhawna. Tips r going to b really useful for us fellow parents. Thank u
| Feb 03, 2014
Yes this tips are really useful as my daughter is apperaring for her 12 th boards and my son in 7th at the same time
| Mar 07, 2013
This is quite an eye opener. Though my kids haven't reached this stage yet, but an article such as this is for keeps and I will save it to look back at it for suggestions in a few years down the line :) Thanks Bhavna.
| Mar 06, 2013
Awesome , their is no better reward than the ultimate comfort food !!! enjoy :-)
| Mar 02, 2013
On this note, we are having a pizza party tonight to compensate for studying history for 5 hours!
| Mar 02, 2013
This is so important.. and rightly said that many of us fail at the first step itself, acknowledging that the child's behavior may be triggered by exam stress. Very well compiled and well timed tips.. thanks