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  • Wendy Patetson

Silly Season or Joyful Exercises. Exams shouldn't cost your mental health.

In the coming weeks and months across the UK young people with be facing the annual challenge of exams; Mocks, SATS, GCSE, or A Levels to name but a few. It seems in fact that the stress build-up begins a couple of years prior to actually sitting the exams.

For teenagers, the moment they return to year ten the pressure mounts, are we actually creating more stress for them to deal with or less? I suppose teachers feel it too, although after years of repeating the process they are usually more adept at handling it. Stats around teacher concerns regarding student mental health make for grim reading.

We are teaching students that stress is an inevitable state, a rite of passage that must be endured in order to be able to get stuff down on paper. When we can in fact create a different state of mind, reframe the process, and alter our responses.

I remember very well having to refer to my nursing exams as “joyful exercises”, they didn’t feel very joyful I can tell you, but on reflection, the genius that was Mr. Cy Grant had the right idea, he taught us to think of it as an opportunity to showcase our knowledge. I think we can teach others to consider this approach.

Practical solutions

So how can we help our young people? We can begin by acknowledging they may be feeling the pressure. Encourage them to make a schedule of revisions and a timetable of exams. Systematically plan and create a timetable that they and you can see. This allows you to notice perhaps if or when they may need a little extra support. The difficulty for parents can be that we want to “do” for our child, it is important that we offer support for them to do the doing. Encourage them to take regular breaks, away from their desk, eat and drink regularly and get some fresh air. Free time where they can see friends, have fun or engage in their favourite pass time is so important – schedule it in. Yes really; schedule it in your timetable!

It is so important to avoid comparison with other students. No two people are the same, everyone will work at their own pace and each will be ahead or behind someone else, if we compare. Keep looking forward, and paddle your own canoe (kayak)

Don't look sideways, move forward with your destination in mind.

It may be useful to create a group of like minds to study together or be available for extra support if one is stuck. It is important that we are aware asking for help is necessary at times and we should be encouraged to do so. It is however important we ask the right people, so seek out credible sources as well as friends.

Getting a good night's sleep is so important. Children and Teens need lots of sleep. Try to avoid electronic devices for an hour before bed as they impede the production of sleep hormones, which are vital for sleep but also growth and development. Sleep ensures we function, both physically and mentally. Have a regular pattern and stick to it, avoid extra hours “laying in” or burning the candle at both, ends as these break healthy sleep patterns and can mean you inadvertently change your own sleep rhythm.

Hypnotherapy can also aid greater relaxation, create focused attention, and use visualisation to create a change in mindset, from being stressed and debilitated to calm and contained; more able to function to their best ability. Improved confidence and self-esteem are added benefits. Look out for group or individual sessions, they can make a difference to any young person who wants to be at their best. Stress can be reduced, and performance improved using some Hypno-techniques, which can be taught for you to take away. Practise makes permanent (not perfect!). A truly worthwhile takeaway- a self-hypnosis toolbox, ready to be deployed at any time over the course of your life.

Perhaps those techniques are the real Joyful Exercises!

Let's create a supportive space where our young people can show how truly magnificent they are.

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