Before the final exams, up to 70% of schoolchildren experience strong excitement and increased stress. Moreover, as statistics show, in anxiety about academic performance, Russian students overtake their foreign “colleagues”.
About how to reduce anxiety during exams, and how parents can support a child at this important moment, aif.ru told neurologist, president of the international society “Stress under control”, doctor of medical sciences Elena Akarachkova.
Graduates are under constant pressure from others. The pressure is on them from all sides. Teachers put pressure on them, scaring them with the bleak prospects of what awaits children who fail their exams. Parents put pressure, reminding that right now it is necessary to give everything one hundred percent in order to justify all parental investments, because the whole future life, the future success or failure of children depends on the results of the exam. Even peers put pressure on them, constantly discussing and exaggerating the topic of the upcoming exams in all details.
I don’t hit or run
On the eve and especially during exams, students experience acute stress. A physiological response occurs in the body in response to a perceived harmful event or threat to survival. The mechanism of stress was first described Walter Bradford Cannon, who is the author of the “fight or flight” formula. But if our ancestors, who were attacked by an enemy or a wild beast, really had to either fight or carry off their legs, then today, under stress, we cannot afford either one or the other. Therefore, all the adrenaline that is released at this moment is not consumed, but accumulates in the body, and as a result of a chain of hormonal reactions, cortisol, the stress hormone, is formed from it. “Excess cortisol impairs attention and the ability to concentrate, increases absent-mindedness, which is why schoolchildren, even with excellent preparation, often cannot complete even tasks they are familiar with,” warns Akarachkova.
Not just excitement
Stress overtakes the guys not only on the threshold of the school office, sometimes it haunts them long before that. Some people get nervous before an exam, others a week before, and particularly anxious students lose their sleep and appetite a few months before exams. The range of experiences can be very different: someone reacts to stress with high anxiety up to the development of tantrums and panic attacks, someone develops apathy or depressive moods, and, possibly, increased aggression. Stress can also manifest itself at the physiological level: for one it is like a bear’s disease, for another it is like insomnia, for the third it is like nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness, heart rhythm disturbances.
It is a big mistake not to pay attention to this, considering such excitement quite natural. On the contrary, parents in this difficult period need to be extremely attentive to their children in order to be ready to provide the necessary assistance in a timely manner. If a child has chronic problems – for example, chronic fatigue, regular insomnia, eating disorders (he almost stopped eating or, on the contrary, began to eat more than necessary), and also if there was a stable change in behavior (strong arousal or, conversely, isolation which was not there before), you need to contact specialists.
How to maintain correctly
In fact, it’s too late to start supporting a child on the eve of exams. It had to be done from the day he was born. But if there have never been problems with the acceptance and understanding of a child in your family, but they arose in this stressful situation, then you will have to do more than what you have always done. So, it is important for parents:
– pay attention to the psychological microclimate in the family. If there are any conflicts, contradictions between family members, now is not the time to resolve them. May there be peace and tranquility at home, at least until the end of the exams. It will be much easier for a child to cope with stress in such an atmosphere.
– show love and acceptance. Emphasize that the child is valuable to you in any case, that no amount of exam results will change his great significance.
Don’t overestimate the importance of exams. A littered exam is a nuisance, but not a disaster. It can be retaken in a year. Health is more important.
forget about comparisons with others. Try to refrain from asking: how many points did Petya get in mathematics? Of course, you want your child to be in the lead, and not someone else’s, but by exposing the child to comparisons with other, more successful ones, you do not motivate him to succeed, but, on the contrary, interfere with him, because the energy that could be spent on studying , he will have to spend to resist your pressure. It has been noticed that children who were often put in the reception of other peers more often grow up anxious, insecure. So just don’t ever do it.
– motivate the child to engage in physical activity. Good physical activity stimulates mental activity and reduces stress levels.
– provide full body support. “For this, sound and sufficient sleep, a balanced diet, as well as the intake of certain vitamins and minerals are important. To improve stress resistance, the body will need vitamins D, C and magnesium. For the good functioning of the nervous system and the optimization of mental activity, B vitamins will be needed, which contribute to the efficient functioning of the brain. It is better to take these substances in combination. Such drugs as homeostres will help out (it will improve sleep and reduce anxiety without the risk of losing concentration), magne B6, aquadetrim, pikovit, ”notes Elena Akarachkova.
– strengthen the nervous system of children, increase the stress resistance of the psyche. There are various psychological trainings, special exercises that will help increase nervous stability and reduce anxiety. However, it is pointless to use them as an ambulance. You need to exercise for a long time, they do not have an instant effect.
– contact specialists in time. Underestimating the impact of stress is very dangerous. Experts say that at least one in four students need psychological counseling during exams. And only every twentieth parent turns to psychologists during this period. Although today there are many opportunities to receive such assistance – in particular, remotely.
How to “pump” the skill of self-control
It is not always the smartest and most prepared who pass exams with the highest score. Often excellent grades get the most calm and self-confident. But what if your child is not like that, but, on the contrary, is very anxious and impressionable? Fortunately, self-control can be “pumped”. Of course, it would be better to start doing this before the exams. The more tests, tests, olympiads and competitions your child has passed during the year and previous years, the less stress the current exams will present for him. But even now it is not too late to do something to increase your self-confidence.
1. Rehearse the exam. We are always afraid of something new. If the child does not have exam experience (for example, he was ill with a trial exam), then arrange a rehearsal at home. Recreate the exam environment as accurately as possible. But keep in mind that the exams are not held in their own school, but in unfamiliar conditions, which increases anxiety. But it is better, of course, to write several mock exams together with the whole class.
2. Learn the algorithm of actions. Children are often afraid that they will not be able to complete a difficult task and that they will not have enough time to do all the work, and this fear increases additional anxiety, due to which the child may start working not faster, but only more slowly. But if you act according to the rules, the anxiety will be less. For example, let the child always start work with easy tasks, and leave the difficult ones for later. Teach them to consistently exclude incorrect answers in complex tasks, and so on. Practice with your child the skill of reading the task to the end before starting to complete it, and it is better to re-read it twice. It will take a little time, but as a result there will be fewer errors. The algorithm of actions helps the student to cope with the fear of the unknown and consistently solve his own version.
3. Teach how to get rid of fear at the physical level. Stress is tension. Therefore, you need to be able to relax. But it’s easier said than done. Therefore, it is important to train this skill in advance with the child. In stressful situations, you should alternately tighten your muscles as much as possible for 30 seconds, and then completely relax for half a minute as well. By repeating this exercise 4-5 times, you can expel anxiety from the body, which will allow you to better concentrate on the task.
4. Help manage panic. It comes on suddenly and can take the child by surprise. And here things are already bad – the head completely refuses to think. In this case, special techniques will help out: slow counting to ten and back, breathing practices, solving mathematical examples in the mind, searching for objects of a certain color in the room where the child is located. By focusing on extraneous things that are not related to the subject of excitement, you can get rid of a panic attack.
5. The day before the exam should be calm. It is only in jokes that students can learn Chinese a couple of days before the exam. In life, you won’t learn anything special over the last day, you will demonstrate the baggage of knowledge that you already have. Therefore, cramming all day long, and, especially, at night before the exam, will only harm the nerves. It is enough to repeat complex topics, and devote the evening to something pleasant, to be distracted. This will help you sleep peacefully and sleep well, and in the morning, really, show the maximum result.