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.


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