Braving an ordeal?

Building up of pressure during exam times is quite an obvious thing; while students should deal with it by staying calm and taking proper sleep, parents too share the responsibility of making things smooth for their kids

Braving an ordeal?

Exams – a monster that can bother even the bravest of hearts. Exams are key milestones in the educational journey of students, which are used to test the knowledge and skills acquired through their studies. Exams have a bad reputation for being scary, nerve-wracking and downright dreadful experiences for some. The bottom line is that exams are not the sole defining factor of one’s worth or future success. In life, there are many other opportunities for growth and success beyond exams. It is important for students to maintain a healthy perspective, and not let exam stress take over their lives or destroy them. A balanced approach goes a long way.

I am in 12th grade and have my board exams upcoming. These are extremely crucial for me, and I am feeling anxious. What are some tips to remain calm and do my best in the exam?

Test or performance anxiety is a common feeling to varied degrees. It refers to the feeling of nervousness, fear, and stress that can arise in situations where high stakes are placed on the performance, in this case, the test. It can manifest as physical features like palpitations, nervous flutter, diarrhoea, pacing, sweating; and mental symptoms like zoning out, freezing, panic attacks or nervous breakdowns.

Why does it happen?

Neuropsychology of exam fear:

Brain: The amygdala sends a fear signal leading to the hippocampus remembering similar threatening experiences of exams and perceiving this as a stressful situation;

Chemicals: Excessive adrenaline and cortisol can lead to a fight, flight, and freeze response;

Psychologically speaking: Fear of failure is a common reason for anxiety, along with a poor test history or poor preparation.

What can you do?

Test anxiety is not necessarily a bad anxiety. It is meant to help you fuel and go all guns blazing before the exam, to prepare harder. Consider the anxiety not as a deterrent but as a support when it is in limited, manageable doses.

Try these calming techniques regularly in the weeks before the exams:

Deep breathing: Slowly inhale, hold the breath and slowly exhale. It is a simple, easy resource to help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety, like increased heart rate and sweating;

PMR (Progressive Muscular Relaxation): Alternatively tensing and relaxing muscle groups can help reduce the overall tension;

Positive affirmations: Instead of negative condescending statements that make you feel wired, anxious, and demotivated, try switching to calming, coping, positive affirmations;

Visualisation: You can achieve what you can imagine. Try to visualise success in the form of doing well in exams. You can even try neutral calming visuals like that of a stream or the sky;

Mindfulness meditation: The now is here. Focus on the present moment, breathe and pay attention to thoughts and emotions.

What is the ideal amount of sleep I need before my exams? I am scared I have less time to study if I sleep too much, so I like to have a lot of coffee to stay awake. Should I continue or stop it?

“A good night’s sleep is like a reset button for your mind and body.”

Sleep is one of the most underrated well-being tools for us. There is no ideal, but an average range of 7 to 9 hours is considered apt for most. It is natural, it is hard to wind down and sleep before exams due to the obvious flurry of thoughts. It is advisable to try some of the calming techniques mentioned earlier rather than scrolling the phone or trying to cram more information.

Lack of sleep before exams can affect the ability to concentrate, recall information (memory), and make quick decisions. It is during our sleep that memory consolidation occurs, helping to ensure that information learnt during the day is transferred from short-term to long-term memory and can be used later when needed.

Caffeine for alertness?

Caffeine is not inherently bad. The repercussions on health depend on the timing, quantity, and one’s caffeine sensitivity. Caffeine helps in feeling a sense of wakefulness by blocking the adenosine receptors, which promotes sleepiness. The downside of caffeine can be that after the initial wakefulness, it can later cause a caffeine crash, along with an increase in anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

The key tips for students consuming caffeine would be to go for moderation, preferably in limited quantities, in the first half of the day and avoid it if it is causing issues.

My child is giving board exams this year. What can I do to support her in this journey?

As a parent, you can provide infinite love, support, and care. While this may look different for everyone, here are a few broad tips.

Let us start with the don’ts, as they are often the ones that trigger young ones.

Do not:

Compare: Refrain from comparing with other children’s preparation and progress;

Overstress and micromanage: Allow the child to be in control;

Ignore physical health: Encourage the child to move, walk, and even go play sports if possible. It’s better than scrolling the phone or devices;

Project your worries onto your child: Avoid your nervous energy being projected on the child;

Mock, demean or predict: Refrain from strong statements about the future;

Ignore your child’s emotions: If your child is feeling vulnerable, do not mock them.


Stay calm: Your calm can help the child;

Focus on efforts, not just the result: Appreciate the efforts;

Check-in and ask: Ask frequently what you can help with. It could be food, ordering their favourite meal, or even soft boarding for studying;

Listen (not give advice): Just Listen;

Celebrate: All sizes of wins.

If your child is struggling excessively, you may seek the help of a mental health professional.

This year, CBSE will provide a free IVRS facility 24x7 for students and parents on a toll free number 1800-11-8004.

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