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6 Ways to Help Pupils Cope with Exam Stress

Anxiety and nerves surrounding exams is unfortunately a problem most pupils will suffer from at some point during their academic career and exam stress can manifest itself in many different ways. 

Pupils' might feel like they're just not ready to face exams and that they're underprepared for them and often worry can arise from the feeling that revision has been left too late. Pupils can also sense pressure from others, like parents, peers or teachers and it’s not unusual for them to put pressure on themselves to get certain results and marks too.

It is completely natural for pupils to be worried about upcoming exams, and about how well they will perform in them. Exams inevitably have an element of uncertainty about them, especially given the fact that, more often than not, you need to learn and recall a considerable amount of information in order to succeed. 

In this blog we'll discuss six ways to help pupils cope with the stress surrounding exams.

6 Ways to Help Pupils Cope

Keep Physically and Mentally Fit 

Pupils should try wherever possible to stay physically fit via an exercise they enjoy. Physical activities like team sports or even a long walk with their dog are not only good for pupils' bodies - it's also great for their minds.

When we're active, chemicals are released in our brains that make us feel good - boosting self-esteem and helping us concentrate. Exercise is a scientifically proven mood booster, decreasing symptoms of both depression and anxiety - both common symptoms of exam-related stress.

While buried in pre-exam preparation, pupils might be tempted to cut exercise out of their daily routine however this should be avoided as exercise could actually be a key to exam success.

Learn to Relax 

Many children and young people are ignorant as to how to truly unwind. But it's invaluable to know how to switch off in an always-on world. Common barriers to relaxation are technology, phones, and Social Media.

It's all too easy for them to end up staring at one screen or another for hours at a time without actually revising or relaxing. 

Simple sources of relaxation include mindfulness and breathing techniques. These practises, combined with identifying a hobby/pastime they might find relaxing, can help pupils physically and mentally. This in turn helps them to relax and focus on exams in a healthier fashion. 

Eat Well

Exam season can trigger all manner of physical and mental issues, from sleepless nights and upset stomachs, to feelings of anxiety and an inability to concentrate.

Stress hormones can create a negative cycle of broken sleep, poor concentration, a loss of appetite and poor digestion. Adopting a nutritional approach and regulating your blood sugar is one of the most effective places to start when managing stress.

Pupils should avoid burning the midnight oil, fuelled by caffeine and sugar, and instead eat slow energy releasing foods like protein-rich meat, fish, eggs, and pules. Fibre-rich carbohydrates like vegetables, fruit, and wholegrains can also help to support better blood sugar regulation.

Be mindful that omega-3s are essential for neurological and brain health too. These can be ingested via oily fish like salmon and sardines, nuts and seeds.

Get Sufficient Sleep

Despite the temptation to stay up and study all night for exams, pupils must prioritise sleep, and understand that rest really is important in order to produce a positive exam performance.

It can be tempting for pupils to reach for a fashionable energy drink to help them keep studying for longer, but this kind of drink is exceptionally detrimental to getting a good night's sleep. Adopting a regular bedtime routine, switching off screens well before bed, and avoiding caffeine and sugar in the evening, are all factors that can help make for a restful night's sleep.

Sleep aids like milky drinks, herbal teas, and a bath with magnesium flakes can also be enjoyable ways to help get a good night's rest. 

Take Some Time Out

It's helpful when combatting exam stress to constructively plan time away from studying, rather than just sporadically avoiding revision. Setting time aside for fun activities and relaxing family time can help pupils' foster positive feelings. 

A simple activity like eating a nice meal or going for a swim as a family is a great way of improving mental health and wellbeing, and boosting self-esteem - which can be particularly important at exam time.

Taking time out reduces stress by removing pupils' from the activities and environments that they associate with stress, fear and anxiety. Once a break has been enjoyed, often pupils will return to revision with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of vigour. Focusing on the same subject for too long diminishes our brains' ability to accurately process it.

Note Your Achievements 

It's important to remind pupils to reward their achievements, no matter how small. If pupils are feeling stressed about a particular exam, they should reward themselves for their revision time. This will help inspire and motivate them to continue studying and will help reduce stress levels too. For example, after studying hard for an hour, pupils could allow themselves 20 minutes 'off' to watch an episode of a TV show, do a gym workout or even game with friends online.

This helps pupils take their minds off upcoming exams whilst also acting as a motivational tool that helps them pick up studying again. Pupils should also positively note their past achievements. This will help them be confident in their chances to succeed again.

At The High School of Glasgow we have an unwavering commitment to placing the wellbeing of pupils at the heart of our educational provision, ensuring a welcoming environment for children to learn in.

The emotional health of each pupil is our priority and our substantive pastoral support system provides pupils with positive tools and comprehensive strategies with which to deal with issues, while individual support and guidance is offered through our established House System. We also have a dedicated Health and Wellbeing Centre which features a Wellbeing Room where children can take time out of their busy schedules whenever they like to have a chat, a cup of chocolate, or simply to enjoy a moment of peace.

If you wish to find out more, we offer bespoke tours year-round for families looking to find out more about life at The High School of Glasgow. Please email our Admissions Team on