Most students who attend my courses want to know what the best stress management tips are. High school students are under so much pressure to achieve high results to get into the courses they want to do. A little bit of stress can propel students into action but too much stress can impair their performance.
Here are my top tips:
Firstly, be prepared. We are all familiar with this Scout’s motto. There is nothing more stressful than leaving your studying to the last minute and then panicking because there isn’t enough time to study everything. Adults often report that they still have nightmares where they are in Matric and they have an exam the next day which they haven’t studied for. A friend told me that he recently woke up from this type of nightmare. The way to avoid this type of stress is to start exam preparation two to three weeks before an exam. One feels much more confident and calm walking into an exam when one is well-prepared.
Secondly, breathe deeply. When panic starts rising in your body, then your breathing becomes shallow and it feels hard to think clearly. I find that it works really well to sit quietly, close your eyes and to breathe deeply for ten breaths. Try it. Your body feels more relaxed and your thoughts stop rushing frantically around your head. This is really useful to do when you sit down in an exam hall and the question papers are being handed out. No one will notice you discretely practising deep breathing. It is also useful if anxious feelings come up while you are studying.
And thirdly, practice positive self-talk. When you are feeling really nervous for a test or exam, it’s natural for a negative soundtrack to run through your head. For example, “I’m so stupid that I’m going to fail this Maths exam and my parents are going to kill me and I’ll never get into university or technikon and I’ll be a failure…” This type of negative self-belief can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is counter-productive to feeling confident and self-assured before an exam. I tell students who are nervous for an exam to tell themselves, “I am going to do my best in this exam. That’s all I can do”. They may need to repeat it to themselves aloud until they feel calmer and more confident.
Students who have attended my courses have given me feedback that all of these strategies were effective in reducing their stress levels. I also recommend the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens” by Richard Carlson for more useful tips.
Which stress management tips have been most effective for you?