Exam panic

exam panic
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Tests and exams are a challenging part of school life for both children and parents. Whether it’s SATs, entrance exams, GCSEs, A Levels or college and degree courses, each level of qualification brings with it its own Exam panic. As a parent, it’s important to support your child through whatever academic challenges they are facing while watching out for signs of exam stress.

Children and young people who are experiencing stress may be irritable, struggle to sleep, have a loss of appetite, worry a lot and appear depressed or negative. Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches can also be stress-related.

Support from parents or tutors can help students air their concerns and keep their worries in perspective.

How to help your child during exams

There are a number of things you can do as a parent to help your child through their exams.

As well as taking care of basics like making sure they eat a healthy, balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise, it is also important to be flexible around exam time. So if your child is revising all day, don’t worry about chores they haven’t done or if their room is untidy.

Help them to revise by making sure they have a practical, comfortable and quiet study area. You could also help them draw up and stick to a realistic revision timetable. Cramming all night before an exam is usually less productive than getting a good night’s sleep.

It is also important that parents don’t add to the pressure. According to support group Childline, many children feel the greatest pressure at exam time comes from their families.So in that respect, it is important to stay calm, maintain perspective and be reassuring and positive.

Exam panic

Sometimes normal levels of exam pressure and anxiety can spill over into high levels of stress and even panic.Panic attacks come unexpectedly and can be very acute and frightening if you don’t know what’s happening – even though they are not actually harmful.

A panic attack is the body’s response to a sudden excessive amount of adrenaline and other hormones in the bloodstream. The symptoms usually subside after a few minutes, but people can find it difficult to just wait, given the intensity of the symptoms.Fear about what is happening usually sets off more panic and can prolong the episode.exam panic

Symptoms of panic

Symptoms of panic include fast shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, dry mouth, chest pain or tightness, nausea or vomiting, sweating, ringing in the ears and feeling distant or disconnected.

Dealing with panic

The best way to deal with a panic attack is to recognise it as a panic attack. People panic in exams because they feel there isn’t time for them to panic and calm down from it. However, if symptoms of panic arise during an exam it is much better to spend five minutes calming down than to spend the rest of the test fighting a rising fear.

It’s important to find ways to distract yourself from the panic rather than engage it.

Calming down techniques

  • Remind yourself that your panic will end. Try diverting your attention by counting backwards from 50 or counting features in the room, for example.
  • Consciously try to relax your body by breathing slowly through your nose and breathing out for as long as you breathe in. Fast breathing disturbs the balance of carbon dioxide and can bring on symptoms of panic so it’s important to try to regulate your breathing.
  • Cupping your hands over your nose and mouth also helps to increase carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
  • Thinking of a time when you were in a similar situation which you survived can also help to reassure you that it is a panic attack and that the symptoms will pass. Visualising a calm place or person and spending a few minutes thinking about this can also be beneficial.
  • Do something physical, such as stretching your legs, leaning back or looking at the ceiling.
  • Think positive thoughts and tell yourself you can beat the panic. And remember, feeling panicky is not a sign that you will fail an exam; it is just your body’s response to your heightened adrenaline levels.

 

 

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