Steps for less stress during exam season

As the Junior and Leaving Cert exams get underway this week, it is normal for students and parents, to become overwhelmed by the high level of stress and anxiety that comes hand-in-hand with state exams.

During this tricky period, St Patrick’s mental health services are encouraging students to be aware of their emotional wellbeing, and to take steps to use these feelings to their advantage, rather than becoming overwhelmed.

Dr Colman Noctor, child and adolescent psychotherapist at St Patrick’s mental health services advised that at this stage of the process, it is normal for anxiety levels to run high.

Dr Colman explained that expectations, especially under such stressful situations, can strongly effect the experience we have, so maintaining an accepting approach to stress will be beneficial.

“If you anticipate that you will not be stressed about the state exams but feel yourself becoming more and more anxious the closer it approaches, then you are more likely to be caught with a curve ball,” commented Dr Colman.

“A state exam is a stressful life event and so try to channel the anxiety into something more productive than panic. Anxiety and stress can either drive us on or immobilise us, so remember that anticipatory anxiety is normal and remind yourself that this often passes or subsides ten minutes into the first exam.”

For better mental wellbeing during exam time, taking the following steps might help.

Trust your process

Anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown, and so situations like a driving test, a job interview or an exam amplify this uncertainty. The process and outcome of all of these situations are unknown and therefore they create fear.

We can become consumed by the unknowns and therefore immobilised by the lack of control we have over the outcome and this can result in panic.

However, if we concentrate on the ‘knowns’ and attempt to reassure ourselves that we have done some preparation for this event and as a result we will be as ready as we can be for what comes up this can help to manage those panicky feelings.

Play your own game

Do not compare your preparation to others as you will always adjudge yourself to be not doing enough or as much.

Try to take control of your anxiety/ stress

Instead use it to motivate you to consolidate what you know already rather than allowing it to distract you with the worst-case scenarios. Where the anxious voice in your head is dominating the discussions, remember to invite two other influences to join the conversation, namely ‘context’ and ‘perspective’. These will help you to counter-argue your anxious thoughts and manage the unwelcome guest of anxiety into your life.

Also, always remember that anxiety is only here for a flying visit and soon it will be gone.

Good luck to all students starting their exams this week.

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