Archive | January, 2019

Managing Anxiety During the Examination Season

20 Jan

Come February and students begin to shine their spotlight on the forthcoming examinations.

They’ve had an eventful year making memories, having fun and now with the exams not too far away fear and anxiety slowly begin to creep in.

Anxiety before an exam can range from being a little nervous to exhausting feelings of worry and fear which can get all pervasive and negatively impact learning, daily functioning and the quality of life.

It’s not just the students, parents are also saturated with stress and anxiety as the days get closer to the exams.

So, what we have then, is an anxious household; Parents who should be facilitators are themselves worked up, creating a strained atmosphere at home and perpetuating the cycle of stress.

How can we avoid this high-strung atmosphere and make sure that our child performs to the best of his abilities? Let’s first understand –

What causes this anxiety in students?

· Fear of letting down parents or teachers

· High expectations from his /her own performance

· Worried about not getting into a college of his/her choice

· Using grades as a reflection of self-worth

· Lack of preparation or not having understood the subject well

· Pressure of limited time

· Previous poor performance.

These and so many other fears cloud the minds of students and prevent them from thinking logically.

How does this anxiety show up?

Different students manifest different issues in varying intensities as a result of this examination fear; But they can all be classified into 3 categories:

· Physical Symptoms — Headaches, nausea, diarrhoea, pounding heart, feeling light headed, aches and pains

· Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms — Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, anger, Fear of forgetting all that was learnt, sadness, Negative self-talk, feeling of being unprepared even though he/she has revised his course work thoroughly,

· Behavioural Symptoms — Restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, putting off studying until the last minute, spending way too much time online, Sleep too much or too little, Irritability

How can we help them deal with their fears?

Even the best of students can get overwhelmed by examinations. Parents need to watch out for signs of stress and help the child do his/her best without working themselves up into a frenzy.

· Provide a quiet and airy place to study.

· Monitor his/her sleep pattern. At least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep is necessary to consolidate all the matter that is learned the previous day.

· Arrange for nutritious meals and healthy snacks to be available. Small meals at regular intervals are better that large meals which make the child feel lethargic and sleepy.

· Encourage regular breaks between studying,

· Have meals together as a family, during which time no academics is discussed. Neutral topics and light-hearted banter should be the theme of these family meals.

· Have realistic expectations from your child and don’t place unnecessary pressure to get a certain grade; Instead assist them in identifying their strengths and interests thus reinforcing their self-esteem and self-confidence.

· Be mindful of the content of your talk at home. Is it all about marks and admissions? Are you providing providing praise and positive feedback that’s not based only on academic achievement?

· Encourage them to exercise or play every day. Exercise produces endorphins which reduces stress and helps them concentrate better.

· Teach them Deep breathing and visualization techniques that they can use when they are anxious.

· Support them and not police them.

· Be available for your child if he/she needs you to assist him/her in creating a study time table or revising a particular subject.

· Allow them to decide when they want to study. You may think the morning is the best time to study but he /she may prefer studying at night.

· Emphasise on consistent hard work and pull the focus off their results.

· Do not compare them to their siblings or cousins or neighbours’ children. Each child has his or her unique combination of strengths. Comparisons only demotivate them.

· Talk to them. Ask open ended questions about their fears. Listen to them. Do not belittle their fears nor amplify them.

· Remind them that it’s only natural to feel nervous before an exam. The key is to put this nervousness to positive use. Encourage them to tolerate and manage their anxiety in a healthy manner. Think aloud and ask them for suggestions about what they could do when these negative feelings or fears creep in. The goal isn’t to get rid of anxiety completely, but to learn to manage it.

· Do not Post Mortem all the earlier examinations. The past is over. Focus on what lies ahead.

· Scolding, Threatening or bargaining with your child will not get them to be inclined towards studying, instead goad them to think about their goal and how their exams are related to them.

· Don’t speak only about your own glories. Share with them about the times you also felt scared, how you managed your anxieties etc.

· List out his/her small and big triumphs of the past that will help build self-confidence.

· Engage in acts of thoughtfulness like making your child’s favourite meal, giving him/her a bear hug or ruffling his/her hair. Combine a little playfulness along with lots of love to keep the atmosphere calm and supportive.

Parents also need to manage their personal stress. You can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Even the most well-meaning parents can get so worked up and thus increase the child’s anxiety. At such times you need to engage in self soothing activities like going for a walk or any other activity that help you maintain perspective.

Kids need to feel that they are competent learners. So, encourage and support them. When students begin to feel that their self-worth is measured by how they fare in an exam — that’s pressure.

It’s important to remind oneself that academic achievement is only one part of a child’s life. The sensible thing a parent can do to support their child, is to accept the child’s potential and find possibilities within that purview.

Anxiety is something which in the right amounts can be beneficial but if it gets blown out of proportion it can be destructive. Reach out for help if you feel you or your child feel yourself getting too overwhelmed.

As they say — ‘If you see a wave coming, grab a surfboard.’

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5 Jan

The first few days of the new year are usually filled with hope, and a childlike enthusiasm at the amazing possibilities the days ahead have to offer.

My mind also travels to the year gone by, the resolutions I made sitting at this very same table, the gung-ho spirit I had when I made them, and how some of them got left behind in my diary while few others made it to the finish post.

On reflection, I have come to recognise that the only force that helps me move out of my comfort zone and act on my vision is, Believing in Myself.

If January is all excitement and optimism, March comes in with its doubts and questions. ‘Are these too ambitious a goal? Will I be able to implement them? Should I even try? or What’s the point, I don’t think I can sustain.’

Self doubt starts getting in my way and the goblins in my head rummage through my mind looking for reasons why I should abandon my project. No matter how achievable or not my goals are its this lack of belief in myself that’s a limiting factor.

Trying to push through these voices of self doubt can be exhausting and sometimes I am so tempted to give in; Afterall, wallowing in self-pity is at times kinda soothing. At the same time the feeling of exhilaration whenever I’ve managed to dodge these persuasive voices and move towards my intentions is so heady, that for most times, its that feeling that gives me the courage to charge past these inner self doubters.

That’s what my new year resolution is all about.

Ideas, Intelligence, Intentions, Visions most of us have aplenty.

But, what we also have a good deal of, is our uncertainties, doubts and fears. Getting around these fears and doubts will be a large part of my agenda this year.

Here I’m sharing with you a few ways I’ve managed to get past my self doubts [Atleast sometimes] Its still ‘work in progress’.

Among the numerous thoughts we have in a day, these unhelpful fears and thoughts can be isolated, as they are nagging, persistent and copious. Fighting them is of no help. Instead I gently address them one by one. After all these monsters are also trying to protect us from any foolhardy endeavours.   Addressing their concerns take the fangs off them and infact it makes me better prepared to achieve my goals.

Challenging my irrational thoughts, and if needed even chiding my noisy brain with words like- ‘Stop it. I’m not listening to you.’ allows me to bravely forge ahead in the direction of my dreams.

Someone once told me that everyone, even very confident people struggle with self doubt. It feels good to know I’m not the only one with these uncomfortable thoughts. Am guessing any change carries with it its share of confusions and fears.  John Steinbeck doubted his quality of writing, Michelangelo didn’t think he was a painter, George Washington feared he would not live up to his people’s expectation, and yet all of them went on to do exemplary work in their field. So methinks we need not shrink or wilt away under self doubt.

Progress on the road towards eliminating my self doubts has never been linear; There have been days where I’ve tucked my tail between my legs and stayed put, and then, there have also been days when I’ve derailed my inner gremlins and forged ahead to ‘Go make that something happen.’

If you, like me are dedicated to creating an amazing year, then go ahead and share your ideas and thoughts on getting past all the internal mulling that keeps us stuck in a loop.

Self doubt is ones personal inferno; But its not invincible. There are slow but sure ways to convince that inner voice that you want to work on those big audacious designs you’ve envisioned for yourself.