Beating exam stress

girl learning person studying
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Here’s an article I wrote for the Hypnotherapy Directory on helping young people cope with exam pressures.

It’s that time of year when teenagers across the country are feeling the heat… and I’m not talking about the arrival of British summer. The pressure on young people to excel at exams as the stakes increase is reflected in an ‘A star or bust’ approach, where students feel a failure if they cannot gain top marks across the board – and indeed, this can impact upon their university placements in such a competitive academic environment. While the temptation can be to cram, it has been proven that a ‘spacing’ strategy is considerably more effective; and a bite-size approach to revision has become increasingly recognised as the best way to work with the brain’s natural capacity to learn.

This has the added benefit of ensuring that other vital needs can be incorporated into a programme of study. It can be all too easy for meal times, exercise, social interaction, and a sensible sleep pattern to go out of the window once students feel they must study 24/7 – especially as anxiety can further impact upon all of these elements. As students are used to timetabling lessons throughout their academic lives, it may be useful to maintain this continuity by designing timetables for study periods with them to ensure that these human needs are not neglected, helping them to stay mentally and physically healthy throughout this pivotal time. This also helps them retain a sense of control as the pressure rises and exam time approaches.

However as anxiety is complex, there can still be a sense of overwhelm, resulting in ‘brain fade’ – or simply blind panic. This is where hypnotherapy can be incredibly beneficial, teaching students self-calming techniques and other practical means of coping. Using hypnosis to encourage students to visualise a calm and confident persona right up to the moment that they leave the examination room can help them face and overcome their fears. Many young people respond extremely well to using their fertile imaginations to see themselves in this way; thus starting the process of helping them overcome their limiting beliefs, feel positive about their skills and knowledge – and making success a reality for them.

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