Handling Exam Stress
I’m Roxanne Rhodes and I’m a psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist and coach with a private practice in Clowne, Derbyshire.
This blog is an article I write monthly for a local magazine- there’s a link at the bottom to the mag! For more helpful hints, tips & advice sign up to my newsletter here, or to see how you could work with me contact me here.
If you have the good fortune(!) to be living with a teenager at the moment you might be more aware than most of the pressures they may currently be experiencing. It’s building up to exam season and for a lot of teens this is an anxious time. I recently visited Heritage school to discuss how I could help their Y11 students to more effectively handle their exam stress.
The MOST IMPORTANT thing that you can do for a student facing exam anxiety is to teach them how to calm down. This sounds really simple but is absolutely vital – and actually very few people have relaxation techniques to draw on quickly when needed. In really simple terms, when we are emotionally aroused for whatever reason (if we are stressed, upset, anxious, scared etc.) scientific research shows that our neo-cortex (the left hemisphere of our brain) actually partially switches off, meaning that we literally cannot think. The best thing that we can do is lower our emotional arousal level, which will allow our ‘thinking’ brain to be switched back on.
It’s that simple!
One of the easiest ways to do this is using a technique called 7-11 breathing. The basic premise of this is that we make our breath out last longer than our breath in. Try it now! Take a deep breath in, counting to 7 as you do this. Don’t hold your breath but breathe out as a continuous flow while counting to 11. This forces the body into a relaxation response. If you find this hard to begin with, that’s perfectly normal. Try counting 5-9 or even 3-5 – just make sure that you’re keeping the out breath longer. You can find plenty more information on this and tips for coping with exam stress on my website and in my blog – How to breathe to relax.
I’m also currently seeing some students who have exam anxiety in one-to-one sessions at my Clowne office, and also by Skype. I am available on the contact details here if you’d like any more information about how you can help your stressed out teen.
See you next month.
First Printed in Chesterfield 1st Magazine