Coping mechanisms for exam stress – guiding your learners to a healthier mind

October is Mental Health Awareness month in our beautiful country. As many as one in five people will, or does already suffer from a mental illness during the course of their lives – quite the frightening statistic. The aim of this awareness campaign has more than just one aspect – it serves to educate people about mental health and to reduce the stigma and discrimination people with mental health issues often experience – especially when it comes to the classroom.

Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, job stress and even exam stress among learners are common and have a huge effect on individuals and the community.

As a teacher and a parent, there is so much that we can do to ensure that the younger generation is supported as much as possible to shelter them from these very common stress factors that can lead to a lot of instability in their adult lives. What do learners stress the most about? Exams – without even blinking and thinking twice about it.

How can we help learners cope with exam stress? These handy tips might just make the difference in their lives long after they have stepped out of your classroom or home.

  • Teach and preach that not all stress is bad. The trick is to get the balance just right. A modest amount of stress and anxiety can provide valuable stimulus that gets learners ready to study and prepare, otherwise they might not bother to put in their best effort. Anxiety is normal, especially when it comes to the results. The secret is to explain the difference between anxiety and just purely being crippled by fear. An exam mark is not the be-all and end-all.

  • Encourage learners to only control what they can actually control. If they are prepared and ready they have done all they can do – they can’t control the questions being asked or difficulty level of the paper. There is no use in getting worked up about things that is out of their hands.

  • Make sure they always abide by the golden rule – avoid getting anxious about getting anxious. Anxiety needs to be placed in a quarantine situation – mob violence and group discussions before a test can be poison. Calm, cool and collected is the answer. Let your learners know that they should not surround themselves with negative energy before any exam.
  • Eat, sleep, exercise, study, repeat. Encourage learners to live a healthy lifestyle. Pulling all-nighters is a recipe for disaster and can increase symptoms of anxiety. Eating well and giving their body the rest it needs will maximise their performance and brain power!

Be that pillar of strength that our young leaders need. You will not only assist them in coping with exam stress, but guide them on the right path to the difficult walk of life!


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