A national mental health charity is encouraging students feeling overwhelmed by exam stress to avail of a free weekly support group.
Turn2Me - a charity offering counselling and peer support services to people over the age of 12 - runs the online group on Thursdays at 6pm, and all students can access it by creating a free account on their website.
It is also open to parents worried about their children sitting exams.
CEO of Turn2Me, Fiona O'Malley, said, "Young people can feel huge pressure to perform well in the Leaving Cert. These exams play a huge pivotal importance in their lives because the results determine which college courses they can do, which can impact their careers.
"The Leaving Cert results can also affect how young people feel about themselves and their capabilities. Students often worry about disappointing their parents or family members."
Irish students all over the country began their Leaving Certificate exams on Wednesday June 8.
Clinical Manager at the charity, Suzanne Ennis, said although small levels of stress can be a good thing by stopping procrastination and making students focus, problems occur when stress levels increase to "unhealthy levels".
She said, "...They can lose their appetite, their sleep is affected and this can all negatively impact their performance in exams. The Leaving Cert is very challenging for young people. We can’t and shouldn’t shy away from challenges because they improve our resilience, but managing stress levels during exam season can improve your wellbeing and improve performance in the exams.
"The best way for students to rise to this challenge is to ensure they are as prepared as possible..."
Turn2Me recommends seven tips for handling exam season including pacing work throughout the academic year and staying on top of notes and revision, staying positive, avoiding phones an hour before bed, and avoiding alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.
They also recommend not eating too many sugary or fatty foods which cause energy slumps, avoiding procrastination, creating a timetable, and using deep breathing techniques.
According to Turn2Me, students with increasing anxiety should put their pen down, close their eyes and breathe in deeply for five seconds and exhale slowly for five seconds, repeating until they feel calmer.
Students are also advised to get enough sleep (ideally eight hours), avoid caffeine before bed, and remember disappointing results are not the end of the world.
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