Wednesday, 29 January 2014

How to deal with exam fear: T2 Article dated 19th Jan' 2014

Fear is one of the biggest anxiety generators, a performance killer. As exam season approaches, there's panic, anxiety, stress. We've got kids and young students in the family who are underachieving due to fear related to either the subjects, exam or performance.
As parents, we also feel very pressured and many a time we unwittingly add to this pressure to perform.

Our need to see our children succeed becomes so strong that we contribute to the fear and lay down the path for their failure.

Tips for parents to deal with their kids' performance anxiety... 

Stay calm: 
It's your child's exam, not yours. The best way to help your child is by staying calm. Be there for your child when they rattle off, desperate sentences like ' I am going to flunk' or ' I am not going to study anymore'. Listen, don't react. Let them vent.

Comparisons are not motivating. Show and express your belief in your child. Use positive, encouraging words.
Look after your child's health: Make sure they eat, sleep and exercise enough and regularly. And that they don't have too much caffeine, especially the night before an exam. A healthy body means a healthy mind.

Be supportive: 
When your child is struggling with a particular subject, don't dismiss him/ her as being lazy or not studying hard. Point out the problem. Asking a teacher to pay more attention or getting a tutor for extra help or a change in tutor may be the keys.

Keep things in perspective: 
Though very important, Classes X and XII are not the end- all and be- all of life. Your child is not defined just by exam results. There are lots of career options out there.

Tips for students to cope with exam pressure... 

1. Soft belly exercise ( abdominal breathing): 

When you feel pressured, try this exercise to calm down. Practice this at least once a day to master the technique.
Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Think about something that's soothing and peaceful, it maybe a garden or a beach. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. As you breathe in, try to push your abdomen out, and as you breathe out pull your abdomen in. Imagine that you are breathing in ' relaxation' and it's filling up your body, and you are breathing out all the stress, tension and worries. Continue doing this till you achieve a regular rhythmic breath pattern and your whole body feels relaxed. Whenever your mind drifts, gently bring your focus to breathing in ' relaxation' and breathing out ' stress'. 

2. Affirmation: 

Create a mantra for yourself which you can chant. Before study, during study, during breaks when you are going to your school or before exam, keep chanting it. ' I am calm and relaxed, and I easily memorise everything that I study.... I recall easily. Exams are fun and I am giving my best.' Or, try this. ' I am confident and I am at my best. I study calmly and I memorise easily. Studying is relaxing and easy.' Or, ' I am confident, I am calm and I believe in myself.' You can create one on your own.
Just start with ' I…' and keep it in the present tense. Keep chanting this personal mantra. You can also write it in a diary 21 times or even say it while looking at yourself in the mirror for added benefits.

3. Quick relaxation before study: 

Clench your fists and stiffen your entire body. Hold for a few seconds and then let go. Relax. Repeat five- six times and let this relaxation spread to your entire body. Feel your entire body relaxing, as if these relaxing waves are reaching your brain and revitalising it, energising all the nerve cells. You are becoming more focused and your concentration is increasing manifold.

4. Projection technique ( at night before going to sleep): 

Take a few deep breaths, make yourself comfortable and relax. Imagine yourself sitting in your own private cinema hall with the screen in front of you.
And now watch a special movie of your life. Watch all the times you felt happy, confident and great about yourself. Enjoy these moments.
And now see yourself preparing for exams with this same happiness and confidence. It becomes easier to study when you feel great about yourself. Now, see yourself in the exam hall, sitting calmly and confidently as you are handed the question paper. Observe yourself writing the exam, being able to answer the entire question paper. You are able to recollect easily all that you have studied. Notice how you feel as you come out of the hall. Feel this positive feeling in your body; let it expand and course through your entire body.

Practise these techniques regularly to see how your focus, concentration and memory improves. And watch how you come out in flying colours! 

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Parenting : T2 article Dated 5th Jan' 2014

Having and raising children can not only be one of the most joyful experiences but one of the most challenging as well. There is no ' formula' for parenting and all of us are bound to mess up in varying degrees. What we can try and do is communicate correctly with our kids so that they understand us.
Here are some pointers to help you improve your communication with your little ones.

Try to understand them.
Listen to the child patiently and let them finish what they have to say, without correcting or interrupting.
What appears trivial to you may be very important for him/ her.

Respond, not react: 
Instead of reacting immediately to whatever the child says or does, take a few moments to pause and then respond calmly.

Recently a couple came in for therapy with their child who was lying pretty often. During counselling we got to know that the father ran a business from home for which he had to ' manipulate the truth' while talking to suppliers and clients.
Behave in the manner you want your child to behave with others.
The old adage that ' the child learns what he sees, not what he hears' is true. Biologically, our brains are
hardwired to learn through mimicking. So, whether we actually perform an action or we simply watch the action being performed by another, our brain fires the same neurons. For example, when you want your child to calm down, shouting at him/ her is not going to help. Speak to them in a normal voice. Demonstrate calmness through your behaviour with others.
Set an example, rather than preach.

If you want your children to do something other than what they are doing, join them in their activity for a while and then gently ask them to stop it. For example, instead of commanding ' turn off the TV, it's time for dinner', go to the room where your child is watching TV, join him/ her for a few minutes and then, during a commercial break, have him/ her turn off the TV. 

Reward your child: 
When rewarding the child, try to focus on non- materialistic things,
like a picnic, a family outing or a game together, rather than objects.
Instead of punishing the child when you're angry, wait till you're calmer. Don't take out your anger on your child in the name of correcting him/ her. Punishment is meant to encourage positive behaviour in the child.

When instructing or telling your child to do something, keep it short and simple. The younger the child, the shorter their attention span. You may have to remind them, but avoid nagging while reminding. Try and offer choices wherever possible. Instead of saying, ' change your pyjamas and brush your teeth', ask ' would you like to change your pyjamas first or brush your teeth?' 

Follow the rule of two- and- a- half minutes: 
When pointing out your child's mistake, try to wrap it up in twoand- a- half minutes. Tell them you want to talk about something very important. In the first 60 seconds, say what he/ she is doing right and how happy you feel about it. For example, ' I am very happy that you shared your chocolate with your sister.' In the next 60 seconds, talk about the problem as a ' scope for improvement'. In the last 30 seconds, tell them that you love them and again praise them for
what they are doing right. If your child is less than six, finish it in one- and- a- half minutes but in the same sequence and proportions.

Expect age appropriate behaviour: 
Expecting the child to ' behave maturely' or to ' think about the future', especially when they are less than 10 years old, does not help.
These concepts are alien to them as they live in the present. The logic that parents work very hard and therefore children should study hard holds no meaning for them.

Let children enjoy: 
You want to raise a happy child, not a successful robot. Let them enjoy the process rather than the competition. Teach them to take defeat and limitations gracefully.
Let your child see that you are happy. Spend leisure time with them and avoid turning it into teaching time. Limit the exposure to electronic media, TV, iPad, cell phone or video games. Instead interact with them, spend time with them, and try to understand them.

Parenting is an ongoing learning project. If you are open and flexible, it can teach you many things about yourself and about life.
Happy parenting this New Year! 

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com.