Coping with "Exam Anxiety"

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

I am writing this piece for you and for me and for all those who are going through tremendous anxiety owing to “our” upcoming exams. Yes, am talking about the dreadful, painful, etc, etc, (please feel free to add your own adjectives ;) ) the “board exams”!

We (parents) are leaving no stone unturned to make our teens get the “feel” of the tension (at least), that’s killing us. We have our own styles for doing that through constant nagging, lecturing, pep-talking, scolding, screaming and so on. There is no right or wrong way of tackling our kids and we are all trying to give our best shot. So, let us all take a bow and pat ourselves on our backs. But, this daily grind of getting-the-point-across-to-our-teens is taking a toll on our mental health. Either the kids or parents or both are ending up feeling more and more worried, stressed and anxious. Can we overcome this feeling of anxiety and live a sane life while our kids get ready to face their exams??? The answer is, “yes, we can!”

I am suggesting some simple tips that we can follow during the next few months so that we can glide through this tough time without turning our lovely homes into mad-houses.

  1. Breathing retraining: Some simple steps to practice breathing retraining are: (i)Sit down on a chair with your spine erect. (ii) Breathe in while counting 1..2..3..4.. (iii) Pause and count 1..2.. (iv) Breathe out while counting 4..3..2..1.. and saying “R-E-L-A-X……” to yourself. (v) Repeat the steps. Please note that we do NOT have to do deep-breathing. We just need to breathe normally. This is an instant anxiety-reliever as it provides the much-needed oxygen to our brain and body. This technique should be practiced 8 to 10 times twice a day.

  2. Mindfulness meditation: Who doesn’t know about this latest buzzword?!? It is clinically proven to be one of the most effective methods to reduce anxiety and stress. Despite its fame and status, many of us are still wary of trying it out. Some common myths attached are: meditation is complicated; it requires a lot of time; it will convert you into a Himalayan saint; etc, etc. Practicing Mindfulness will not solve our problems but it can empower us to deal with them effectively and with a greater clarity of mind. Let us do a simple meditation practice. Steps to follow are: (i) Sit down on a chair with your spine erect. (ii) Close your eyes and breathe in and out normally. (iii) Focus your attention on your breath and feel the sensations as you breathe in and out. Please do NOT look for anything special to happen! (iv) If you feel that your mind is wandering, tell yourself “its OK” and very gently bring your attention back to your breath without criticizing yourself. You can do this for one to two minutes twice a day.

  3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Stress causes our muscles to tense up and Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR is the perfect way to release this tension at will. Some simple steps to do a quick PMR are: (i) Sit on a chair comfortably. (ii)Squeeze in your toes, calf muscles, thighs and hips. Hold the tension for 5 to 10 seconds and release. (iii)In the similar way tense up the shoulder, stomach, back and neck. Hold on for 5 to 10 seconds and release. (iv)Now, squeeze the fists and arms. Hold the tension for 5 to 10 seconds and release. (v)Lastly, tense up the forehead, eyes and jaws. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and then release. This can also be done for a minute twice a day.

All the techniques listed above are proven, tested and greatly effective in reducing the stress and anxiety. Spending just about 5 to 10 minutes a day to ensure our mental well-being, is not a bad deal after all.

All the best for the upcoming exams!


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