It’s almost study season and for those of us who stress out when revising, we’ve compiled the best revision advice, so you won’t be pulling your hair out!
Psychotherapeutic Counsellor for Mind Therapies Kent, Alison Markantonis, says Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can be a “useful frame of reference for managing anxiety”, for students throughout exam period.
As well as CBT, Alison also uses a ground-breaking technique, Rapid Pain Elimination, to decrease anxiety and increase confidence. The benefits include a clear mind, improved concentration, retention, recall of study and also helps you sleep better.
It is also used for physical and emotional pain elimination and is currently undergoing a pilot within the NHS because of its success. Alison said “it is quicker than traditional hypnotherapy and I don’t need to put you into Hypnosis”.
Keeping organised and having a plan is key to preventing stress levels rising. A report released by NSPCC said that ‘thousands of children and teenagers are seeking help from Childline as they struggle to cope with the pressure of taking exams’.
The statistics showed that childline delivered 3,135 counselling sessions, on exam stress throughout 2017 and 2018, with just over a fifth taking place in May.
It showed that half of the counselling sessions were with young people aged 12 to 15 years old. Some of the issues that young people were concerned about included an overwhelming workload, pressure from their parents and worries about whether they would achieve their desired grades.
Young people contacting Childline also said the ‘prospect of taking exams was having an adverse effect on their mental health, with some saying it was leading to them self-harming, feeling depressed or experiencing anxiety’.
Alison said “Check that you have everything you need, for each exam, ready and double check all timings”.
“The night before check that you have everything you will need ready, and double-check all timings”.
“Plan your revision – draw a simple diagram/ spreadsheet with dates of each exam and how many topics need covered for each. This will give you a clear idea of how much time you need to dedicate to each exam topic and when you need to get started on your revision”.
Stay aware of body and mind
Before you start your exam, focus on your breathing to ensure that you are feeling oxygen to your brain, in order to avoid panic. Alison said “Before you start, breath in through your nose for the count of four, and out through your mouth for the count of eight”.
“Read through all the questions first. Start answering the questions that you feel most confident about and if your brain freezes, just start writing anything and you will soon start remembering more details.”
“Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up with negative thoughts”
“Are you thinking unhelpful negative thoughts about exams or revision? If so, note down the ways you are thinking and consider whether they are based on facts or evidence, and ask yourself how you can think more realistically?”
Alison also listed some useful ways to prevent a panic attack from occurring. She said:
- consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand, and move your way up through your body
- observe your thoughts – how are you thinking
- halt negative thinking by shouting the word “STOP!!!” really loud inside your head to interrupt the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands
- add in some perspective – is this thought fact or opinion, is there another way of looking at it. Try to immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you to cope with the situation
- ground yourself – feel your feet on the floor, your bottom on the chair, your hand on the desk etc
Avoid other peoples panic and don’t study to excess
Alison said that you need to “Avoid other peoples panic” and focus on yourself. There is only so much pressure that one person can can handle, so although you should be cautious of the fact that your friends are most likely feeling stressed too, ensure that your prioritise your work first.
Alison also suggested that studying too much, could cause students to feel worse, as opposed to taking longer breaks. She said “don’t study to excess and ensure that you “take breaks and have some fun too”.
Advice for parents
It is important for parents to remember:
- Every student will approach studying in their own particular way; whether it is listening to music whilst revising or studying with friends together in a group – even if that’s not the way you were taught
- Make sure they have a comfortable place to work and study, which is quiet
- Establish a study routine and schedule small and frequent rewards
- Be lenient about chores and tidiness during this time
- Understand quick tempers and moodiness
- Be calm, positive and reassuring; put the whole thing into perspective
- Go through a checklist to make sure they have everything they need
- After each exam, allow them the opportunity to talk about how they have done and encourage them not to dwell on mistakes they feel they may have made
- Give your child lots of encouragement so they feel more positive and let them know how proud you are of them, regardless of how they do. Make it clear that you love and value your child for who they are, and not for exam results
Maintain a healthy diet
The key thing to remember, in order for your brain to develop efficiently, is to maintain a healthy diet. Vitamins are an essential part of our daily diets and are the reason behind the way our thought process works. Alison said “Wake early and have a balanced breakfast and leave plenty of time to get to the exam.
“Eat healthily, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly (but not too much)and get enough sleep”.
Advice for schools and universities
A good way to tackle the stress that student face while revising would be to look at the source, for example, schools and universities.
Alison said “Exam anxiety is an increasing problem in today’s society, especially as testing has become such a huge part of our culture, as well as the messages given to students about the importance of exam results for their future and how grades equal success”.
“This focus on results can discount the enjoyment of learning and of other talents, skills and achievements in life”.
Alison listed three points that staff in schools and universities should teach:
- specific examination and revision techniques to increase their sense of control and competence
- helping students identify, share and challenge negative thoughts about exams or indeed themselves, which may otherwise become overwhelming
- managing the physical symptoms of exam stress/anxiety before, during and after exams