Exam stress? Here’s when and how to seek help

New Delhi |

Updated: June 20, 2020 2:13:34 pm

exam stress, tips to deal with board exam stress, indianexpress.com Know how to deal with board exam stress the right way. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Written by Nooraa Sinha

Throughout his school life, Suraj was recognised as one of the outstanding students. He had consistently performed well in academics while also being active in sports, where he had bagged quite a few medals in swimming over the years. However, a few months before he was to appear for his Class 12 board exams, Suraj started showing certain behaviour, which was unlike him.

Suraj’s teachers and parents immediately intervened and sought the help of the school counsellor. After a series of sessions, it was evident that he was feeling distressed regarding the upcoming board exams. Being a high achiever and incessantly being hailed as so by people around him had put undue pressure on Suraj, and he had begun to avoid anything that related to school and studies.

The stress of appearing for board exams is here again and most school counsellors, have been providing online counselling post the lockdown. Exam stress is not new, intervention at the right time and professional counselling, help in balancing expectations of the parents and the child.

Here are some of the recommendations that students can keep in mind to cope with exam stress:

Be mindful of a cry for help

Early signs of mental health concerns must be detected in time. Several red flags indicate that a student needs mental and emotional support, and as caregivers, parents and teachers, we need to be conscious of them. If a child displays the following symptoms for more than three months and is uncharacteristic of the child, it is imperative to seek professional help.

Mood changes such as prolonged feelings of sadness and withdrawal from things they previously enjoyed or liked.

Angry or aggressive behaviour.

Poor concentration or restlessness.

Isolating oneself from peers and family members, being quiet and withdrawn.

Alteration in sleep patterns and food habits – too much or too little of either.

Physical self-harm, like cutting oneself.

Deteriorating academic performance.

Encourage students to seek help

For a student to effectively cope with emotional and mental challenges, they need professional support. However, often children hesitate to speak to counsellors in school as they dread teasing and stigmatisation by peers. Parents and teachers need to assure children that seeking support for mental health is as acceptable and appropriate as for a medical ailment.

Promote positive conversations around mental health in schools

To ensure social-emotional literacy, schools should design themselves to be much more than centres of learning. Awareness can also be generated by classroom sessions on well-being and life skills, and designing co-curricular activities, general awareness competitions and community forums wherein students can share their experiences and struggles.

Develop emotional intelligence in children

In the absence of a supportive infrastructure, children often internalise the stress from school and home, which then develops into behavioural disorders. We need to build emotional intelligence in students that helps them recognise their strengths and weaknesses, teaches them to motivate themselves and understand themselves and those around them better.

Mental health issues among the younger population can no longer be ignored. Taking up the battle to destigmatise it will take patience, resilience and open-mindedness, especially on the part of educators and parents.

The author is senior counsellor (Psychology) at Shiv Nadar School, Noida.

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