Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Exam stress was bad, the pandemic made it worse: Here’s how to help

Seemingly never-ending lockdowns. An ever-changing HSC exam schedule. A delayed return to school. Is it any wonder that many students have been left feeling overwhelmed and anxious about their upcoming exams?

Learning to cope with exam and performance anxiety is an important skill to learn, especially in our brave new world of unexpected lockdowns and social distancing. In order to help them get there, parents and caregivers must build a strong support system during this stressful period to lighten the load. Here are some practical tips for encouraging wellbeing and helping your family to manage exam stress.

Get prepared

There’s nothing more stressful than looming exams that you’re not prepared for. In fact, many adults report having ‘I haven’t prepared for my exam’ stress dreams well into their adult lives.

In order to avoid this nightmare-inducing situation, it pays to prepare well ahead of time and make sure your child has a clear and consistent plan of action. Being as prepared as possible will help your child manage their stress so that when anxious thoughts take over, they can remind themselves of all the work they’ve already done.

Get a schedule in place

In order to plan more efficiently, design a revision timetable that fits comfortably into your family’s daily routine. Design the timetable in manageable, bite-sized chunks that still allow time to rest.

Don’t forget to schedule breaks and downtime into the calendar, so that when your child decides to relax, they know that they’ve done enough work to enjoy it. Gently remind and encourage your child to stick to their chosen schedule as much as possible – while still allowing for a little flexibility here and there.

Work with your child, not against them

Make sure your child takes the lead in planning their revision schedule so that they feel in control of their time. Remind yourself that every child works and thinks differently, and what might have worked for one child may not work with another.

Encourage your child to reflect on which way they learn best, whether it’s visually through diagrams and mind maps, through language and communicating what they’ve learned out loud, or by physically writing things down over and over again. Once they’ve found their favourite method, they’ll feel more in control of their revision and could even start to enjoy it.

Get their health in check

Getting a child through exam season can sometimes feel like training an elite athlete. The brain is like any other part of the body: it needs the right fuel to get it through, it needs a varied training schedule, and it needs some exercise now and again.

Eating is one of the most important factors to ensure your child can focus on the day ahead. If they’re running low on fuel, they’ll find it harder to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. In the lead up to the exam, make sure they have lots of nutritious fruit and veggies, and that they’ve had a decent meal beforehand. If their exam is in the morning, make sure they have breakfast!

Making room for mindfulness

Mindfulness is an incredibly important tool for managing anxiety. Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment by paying attention to our breathing, our bodies, and the world around us, in order to avoid our thoughts becoming overwhelming.

One mindfulness technique is called the 5-4-3-2-1 method, where you name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This method is great for grounding your child in the present moment, and giving their mind something to do that isn’t thinking about how much revision they have to do!

Another technique is called ‘box breathing’, which is where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breath out for four, and hold for four. Continue for as many ‘boxes’ as it takes to feel more calm and grounded.

There are many great mindfulness techniques out there, so find one that works for your child. They’ll become great tools that they can take with them throughout life, beyond the world of exam stress.

Delvene Neilson is an experienced educator and has taught at secondary schools across Adelaide and the UK. She is the head of customer success at ClickView, an online education company that provides over 4,500 schools, colleges and universities with access to high-quality, relevant, and interactive curriculum-aligned video resources.

Championed as ‘The Netflix of education’, ClickView’s content is used by over 70% of secondary schools in Australia. New video releases are produced in conjunction with subject experts and Australian teachers and added to the library every six weeks. ClickView has been producing and distributing its innovative and impactful video content online since 2003.