As exam season kicks off, millions of schoolkids will soon feel the pressure of getting good grades. Here's our quick guide to helping Christian teens cope with the stress of exam season.
In times of great stress, the advice I turn over in my mind again and again can be found on the cover of a particular book. Inscribed in large friendly letters on the cover of this book are the words DON’T PANIC.
The book in question is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and if a character (Arthur Dent) whose planet was demolished to make way for an intergalactic highway can take comfort from the words DON’T PANIC, then maybe everyone else can as well.
This goes doubly so for students
No. Strike that.
Triggered through hormonal signalling that tells your brain you are in danger, stress wires you into fight-or-flight responses - and since you can neither fight your way out of an exam nor leg-it when the moderator’s back is turned, it may be worth questioning how much power we give stress during the exam period. And what you can do about it.
Here are some top tips for dealing with the next hit of exam-stress-adrenaline:
1. Take a screen-free break
Your brain will be on the receiving end of momentous stimulation levels during the exam period. It can feel like you’ve had 20 coffees and as many mars bars in one jittery hit. Don’t make it any worse. Your phone offers you enough stimulation through visual brightness, as well as the dopamine hits engineered into most social networks, so just let it be. Turn off any screens, and let your eyes rest. Your mind will soon follow.
2. Don’t compare
Stress is widely-known to be largely perception, rather than reality. When we see two different ideas or objects, our minds are wired to make a link between the two. When those two objects are your possible grades and a friends’ possible grades, your mind will automatically link the two and you’ll soon start to feel like you aren’t good enough. Instead, make sure you are focused on your own work, your own grades. Not anybody else’s. They will get what they get, and you’ll get what you get. It’s not a competition, but a chance to excel at what you’re best at.
3. Step back for perspective
Remember, it’s not the end of the world (unless your name is Arthur Dent, and then it was the end of the world, but at least you have the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reminding you DON’T PANIC). These exams are a step in life, and not what will make-or-break it. Whatever your grades are, you must always be kind to yourself, and never give up. A duff exam grade won’t ruin your life; giving up will.
4. Eat healthily
I can’t stress this enough: DON’T EAT RUBBISH DURING EXAM PERIOD. Chocolate may offer quick bursts of energy, but half an hour later you’ll crash and be in a worse place than you were before. Eat regular, healthy meals. Drink lots of water.
Also, you are never too busy to skip a meal.
You don’t have to bench-press a bus or run a marathon to get exercise (unless that’s your jam, in which case, good on you). Even just a stroll or some light games with friends will help keep you alert and healthy. Your body is a complex machine that needs looking after - and, unsurprisingly, your brain is part of that body. No one is too intelligent not to get some exercise, and it will do you the world of good to remember that.
Sometimes the hardest thing we can admit is to not being strong enough. And whilst you can’t ask God to tell you the names of all the noble gasses, or what ¡Qué guapo un burro! Means in English, you can ask for strength and focus during this difficult period. Even if it’s just a quick ‘God, help me’.
7. Again, DON’T PANIC
You’ll get through this. Exams aren’t a measure of your worth, of who you are. They are just a hurdle to jump in life. One that everybody must jump over as they grow older. So when your adrenaline-pumping brain is telling you to skip a meal, stay up a little later or that you aren’t any good, just remember that you’ll be ok.
Just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and DON’T PANIC.
For more tips on surviving the exam season, check out Don’t Panic by Martin Cole and Andrew Roycroft. Billed as ‘The Christian's Exam Survival Guide’, it gives you lots of in-depth tips to making out of the other end of exam season.
May 24th, 2018 - Posted & Written by Aaron Lewendon