Portarlington psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy on how to help with exam stress

Dr Eddie's tips to help stressed exam students
The weather is picking up so Junior and Leaving cert exams are on the way. For parents and students this is a time of great tension.

The weather is picking up so Junior and Leaving cert exams are on the way. For parents and students this is a time of great tension.

You may be worried that your Sinead or Seamus is not doing enough work, distracted by football training or Facebook. They may feel the mocks didn’t go well so may be overwhelmed. They may act like they couldn’t care less, but inside they may not feel like this. I would like to offer hope. There is still time to make a significant difference with one last push.

Parents can help with students who are feeling overwhelmed and under pressure.

Here are some Top Tips to avoid stress and relieve some of the pressure.

1. Boost Self –Belief

Remind your teen that they are capable of passing the exam. That they have studied the subject for many years and know about it.

2. breaks and some exercise

Exercise is great for aiding relaxation and helping you to keep calm but during exam time students may feel unable to take much time out from studying.  Instead of giving up on exercise altogether, take small, regular breaks. For example, a 15-minute brisk walk. 

3. Encourage and praise

This approach tends to work better than criticism.  If your teen feels they have not done well in an exam, focus on what they did well, not what they missed or forgot to do. 

4. Praise the effort

Encourage your son/daughter to aim to simply do their best.  Not getting a top grade does not mean failure and you will support them because of their effort rather than the results.

5. Tell them to “Sleep on It”

Encourage your child to review their notes, get a good night’s sleep, wake up an hour earlier than usual and review the notes again. Avoid drinks with caffeine. Discourage the use of energy drinks as these can interfere with sleep patterns.

6 . Ask if you can help

Apart from feeding and watering, can you help go over any of the main points or help with revision? 

7. Have their favourite foods

Stock up on their favourite food and drink so that they eat regularly. Ensure the furnace is stoked in the morning and that breakfast is not skipped.

8. Become the Organiser

Help them get organised with what they need for the exam (calculators, rulers) and know what is forbidden (ie mobile phones). Have all their dates and times clear in their heads and on your family calendar.

9. Talk it over

Confiding in someone you trust and who will listen and be supportive is a great way of reducing stress and worry.  Encourage the student to talk to a friend, relative or parent to help to talk things through.  Often what seems like an overwhelming problem can be manageable when you talk it through with someone else. 

10. deep breathing works

At exam time it is natural for adrenaline to flow. This causes nerves and that can be a positive and motivating feeling. However, getting excessively nervous is counterproductive as it hinders the ability to think clearly.  Encourage your son/daughter to practice deep breathing, starting now. The quickest and most effective way of eliminating panic is to close your eyes and take deep breaths in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds. Breathing in this way calms your whole nervous system. 

There is still time to make changes. Take control and make it happen. Good luck to everybody.