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From Panic to Power: Turning Exam Stress into Success

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Family and teacher support is key, yet managing stress is the student’s own responsibility


While exams are just round the corner, a majority of students find themselves increasingly anxious about the upcoming challenges. This period is marked by significant stress, which can deeply affect students’ well-being and performance. The anticipation of exams often triggers a wide range of emotional and physical responses, from sleep disturbances to a noticeable drop in confidence levels.
The pressure to excel, blended with the fear of failure, compounds the stress, making it a critical issue that demands attention. Not only the academic outcomes are at stake, the intense stress experienced during this time can have lasting effects on a student’s mental health. Thus, understanding and addressing the roots of this exam-related anxiety becomes crucial.
Among various factors, the primary cause of exam stress is often the pressure from parents to achieve top results. According to many surveys, student suicidal attempts are more prevalent during the time of examinations or the declaration of results.
A significant release of various hormones in the body to combat situations of stress might lead to an edgy and nervous feeling much before the exam starts that may continue well up to the time of the declaration of results. Early signs of excessive stress are headache, loss or change in sleep pattern, loss of appetite and temper, tired and sick feeling, loss of concentration and sense of restlessness. While it is perfectly normal to feel some stress, it is the high-risk students that pose a worrisome situation and they should be recognized early and intervention should be done accordingly.
Creating a conducive environment for a child’s study during examination days is a critical responsibility that falls on the shoulders of parents. Apart from providing the physical tools for study, it involves creating an atmosphere that is emotionally and physically supportive to a child. A key aspect of this is to ensure the study space at home which is free from noise and other distractions. In a household where the everyday noise is maintained at a decent level, it becomes simpler for children to concentrate and grasp the content of their studies.
Parents must ensure that maintaining a clean and hygienic environment is essential for an effective study space. A cluttered, disorganized space can lead to feelings of both overwhelm and anxiety, adding to the stress that examination brings with it. By maintaining a clean and orderly study area, parents can help minimize these stressors, allowing the child to focus on the task at hand. This extends to the importance of a balanced diet, which is often overlooked during stressful times. Nutritional meals fuel the body and the brain, providing the energy and focus needed for effective study.
The emotional atmosphere of the home plays a crucial role in a child’s ability to manage stress. A home filled with parental conflict or hostility between family members can significantly heighten a child’s anxiety levels, detracting from their ability to study effectively. Demonstrating love, support, and understanding can make a significant difference in a child’s stress levels and overall mental health during exams.
Moreover, the role of parents in managing exam stress isn’t limited to creating the right study conditions. It also involves recognizing the importance of breaks and leisure activities, providing a holistic approach to their child’s well-being. Encouraging the child to take regular breaks and engage in activities they enjoy can help prevent burnout and maintain a healthy balance between study and relaxation. This balanced approach helps ensure that the child remains motivated and mentally well, enabling them to perform their best during examination periods.
While guidance and discipline are necessary, adopting an overly strict approach can prove to be highly detrimental. Studies conducted have shown that children who constantly feel overshadowed by their parents’ advice and suggestions tend to underperform in their examinations.
Teachers play a pivotal role in alleviating stress among students who are gearing up for examinations. Often, students have that one teacher they particularly admire and see as a mentor or role model. This admiration places teachers in a unique position to influence their students positively, especially during the high-pressure exam periods. It’s important for teachers to ensure they are highly accessible to their students during these times. Being available to answer questions, clarify doubts, and provide guidance can significantly ease students’ anxieties.
Moreover, teachers can extend their support beyond academic assistance, offering encouragement and strategies for managing stress, time, and study habits.
This holistic approach not only helps students in their immediate preparation for exams but also equips them with valuable skills for managing stress in future academic endeavors.
Sleep is another important component that has the most important contribution to the performance of a student in an examination. The heightened stress levels can lead to acute insomnia, adversely affecting student’s health and mental state. This sleeplessness can have serious consequences, not only on personal well-being but also on academic performance. The elevated levels of anxiety about exams potentially reduce performance in the exams, creating a vicious cycle. In this dynamic between stress and exams, sleep emerges as a critical factor.
The relationship between stress and sleep is bidirectional. High stress levels can make it difficult to fall asleep or maintain a deep sleep, which in turn, can exacerbate stress. This cycle can be particularly detrimental during exam periods when the brain needs rest to function optimally.
Contrary to the belief that the brain shuts down during sleep, it is actually engaged in vital processes, most notably the consolidation of information learned throughout the day. This means that quality sleep is essential for memory retention and learning, reinforcing the idea that adequate rest is not just beneficial but crucial for academic performance. Ultimately, while support from family and teachers is invaluable, the responsibility to manage stress rests with the students. By actively organizing their study schedules, employing effective time management tools, and adhering to a disciplined study plan, students can not only achieve academic excellence but also develop life skills crucial for future success.
(The writer is a Academic Officer at SCERT Jammu).

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