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Exam Stress - anything work?

(22 Posts)
walkthedales Wed 20-May-15 11:53:15

My DD is taking AS levels and has been very stressed and nervous, to the extent that she has not been able to stop her hands shaking during the exams. She gets very tearful and worried prior to exams and has been revising for hours every evening.
I encourage her to take breaks, provide her with food and drinks and test her, when she asks. I have tried to get over to her that these exams are not life and death and that she will do well and if she doesn't , it's not the end of the world if she doesn't.
One of her friends was prescribed tablets for exam nerves, so she is obviously not the only one feeling this bad. The trouble is that as she wants to go to Uni, exams are going to a regular event in the summer and I would like to help her find some coping strategies.
Anyone found anything that helps their teenager? I never really worried about exams. I did well at school, but it was in the 70s-80s, when expectations for girls were so much lower and most of us were expected to start a family and not go on to higher education.

btdtgtts Wed 20-May-15 12:19:14

Not much use for this time round, but: extremely good preparation, starting well before it would be necessary for someone not prone to exam panic. The way to think of it is: I may not be able to control whether I actually hold it together to pass this exam, but I can make sure I know for certain sure in my heart of hearts that I deserve to do well. Actually it does help to prevent exam panic, but only sort of statistically and in the long term; you can know your stuff inside out and still panic. But even then, most panickers don't do nothing in an exam, they underperform: underperforming from 98% to 74% is much less serious than underperforming from 58% to 34%, iyswim. IME universities are better than public exam boards at making allowances (because they're closer to the students) and a tutor who can vouch for the fact that the student really did know their stuff, plus excellent marks on coursework, can make all the difference. So the hard part to get through is probably the next year; don't worry too much about university.

Seeing a GP is also worthwhile, (a) because an anxiety diagnosis may be the key to sitting exams in a separate room and maybe having breaks if necessary, which can really help some people (b) because beta blockers are worth discussing, e.g. for hand shakes, and maybe there are other medications also worth considering.

walkthedales Wed 20-May-15 13:37:57

Thanks for your thoughtful post btdtgtts. She has been revising for months and does know her stuff, so hopefully this does help once she is in the exam.
I agree that seeing a GP would be worthwhile and I hadn't considered the points you make about an anxiety diagnosis and the allowance that may be made in sitting the exam.
Thanks for the reassurance regarding Uni too.

noblegiraffe Wed 20-May-15 14:31:32

Rescue remedy and deep breathing/relaxation/positive visualisation might help before trying medication.

walkthedales Wed 20-May-15 16:50:02

Thanks noblegiraffe, have never tried Rescue Remedy, but know a lot of people say it works.

twentyten Wed 20-May-15 20:47:20

Second rescue remedy and. Also this works deep sleep spray. Does your dd pick up others stress too? Dd wears earphones a lot to deter the stress transmitters at school! Also- dd finds doing things with her hands helpful- popping bubble wrap, baking etc etc- rolling blu tack- stroking the dog also helps!

walkthedales Thu 21-May-15 09:33:55

Yes twentyten, she does pick up others stress and although I have advised her not too, they all get on their phones after the exam and compare answers, so this prolongs the worrying.
I really like your suggestions about doing something with her hands. We have a lovely dog, who adores being stroked! I will get her to try out the rescue remedy, have read very good reviews about it. Thank you.

Ginandtonictime Thu 21-May-15 17:17:25

noble - got a question for you on page 39 of GCSE exams thread ... can you lend any clarity?

skinnamarink Mon 25-May-15 17:14:54

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

TheoreticalOrder Mon 25-May-15 21:03:01

My DS did some Mindfulness for children and HeartMath stuff - he is a fair bit younger but it really helped him.

walkthedales Tue 26-May-15 17:21:10

Thanks TheoreticalOrder, I find Mindfulness really helpful myself, but haven't been able to inspire either of my teenage daughters to give it a try. I think it could be really helpful with exam stress.

TheoreticalOrder Tue 26-May-15 18:50:22

I found details of a great programme online that was done with children in the States over a 6 week period. I did some of it with DS whilst he was in the bath. grin

I didn't say it was Mindfulness and I didn't tell him what we were doing. I just went in for a chat and steered the conversation so we were talking about what he feels like when he's stressed. I then asked him if he could describe what colour it was etc, so it was more like a slightly weird conversation whilst he relaxed rather than a training session, IYKWIM.

TheoreticalOrder Tue 26-May-15 19:01:20

Can't find the one I used, but there are some good exercise here:

walkthedales Wed 27-May-15 12:13:46

Hi Theoretical Order, many thanks for this. I have the book "Mindfulness, a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World" by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. This book has helped me significantly reduce my stress levels and enjoy life more, so I am enthusiastic about how this could help my daughter too.

MayPolist Sat 30-May-15 23:13:09

Too late now but for anyone else reading who might be in this position in the future, you need to see your Gp who will prescribe beta blockers, but they need to be taken well before exams start so their bodies can be come accustomed and they do not suffer side effects.

MagratGarlik Sat 30-May-15 23:33:42

I was always an exam panicker. For me, regardless of the amount of preparation I'd done before hand (which was usually extensive), pre-exam panic was part of the process. People who tried to get me to "take a break" from revision usually fuelled the panic ("I can't take time off, I don't know x,y,z thoroughly yet").

I'd say, give her space to panic, listen to her concerns, be there for her. Try Rescue Remedy, plus a lavendar oil bath the night before and bananas just before the exam (supposed to help release serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter which helps to relax). Most importantly though, is giving her space to panic.

In the exam, calming techniques include firstly read through the WHOLE paper. This gives 5 minutes to calm down, whilst also familiarising yourself with the questions. Find a question she can answer easily and answer this first. Then, don't talk to others after the exam. Nothing can be changed then anyway, but will only add to the worry that it went badly (I came out of every exam I did convinced I had failed - I didn't fail a single one, but was absolutely convinced I had).

voilets Wed 03-Jun-15 07:13:03

my DD is taking a few GCSEs early this year and has 2 weeks in school end of year exams.

In her GCSE yesterday she reports being calm.

However, sleep has been a nightmare. On sunday she slept for half an hour and her heart was beating a little faster and she was anxious needing me all night. Monday - broken sleep but better. Last night really bad again not so anxious as restless and said she had adrenalin - today was her 'scariest exam'.

We've used rescue remedy to some good effect. She has been prescribed something homeopathic to try and we are going to see the GP to discuss management strategies for next year.

My DD is usually so sensible and she is so 'ashamed' love her because she 'knows it is silly to be in such a state'.

I've given lots of space to panic, cry , reassured her that it is normal to care so much about exams and we have tried distracting techniques plus lots and lots of cuddles and listening time.

Poor thing! Taken us all by surprise. My DD is afraid of failure - very able and we are fine with however she does but there is more pressure than my days with exams.

Have read all the above posts with interest. thanks

WhatIActuallySaid Wed 03-Jun-15 09:34:43

One thing she needs to know is that she is not alone! My DD is doing her A2 and the only thing that works is for her to channel her stress into constant revision. She has devoted the whole year to her A'levels - it's a bit extreme. sad

I think taking a gap year would have helped with the stress. She also choose a uni that she was realistically likely to get into rather than risking any grade slippage with an 'aspirational' choice. She did get unconditional offers but not for her favourite university.

We talk and I do everything to look after her. She still does chores but I don't nag her about anything. We get on well which helps but it's hard to know that I can't do anything more concrete than making cups of tea and sympathising.

Its so stressful for them. She reassures me that she isn't 'depressed' which is good but says she hasn't been that happy this year because of the constant stress. Knowing they are stressed is half the battle, it's sometimes not obvious.

Hope your DD feels better soon.

voilets Wed 03-Jun-15 10:58:04

Lovely to hear your story Whatiactuallysaid. Hope your DD feels better after a long break.

My DS is also preparing for uni. Doing a re-take but gap year has been great for maturity. He is fairly chilled in comparison - even last year with all his A2's.

They all respond differently to exam stress.

WhatIActuallySaid Wed 03-Jun-15 11:16:25

Violets. I think you misread my post (understandably as I was rambling blush )

I was just saying that I think planning to take a gap would have helped my DD as then she could concerntrate on her exams with out the added stress of worrying about meeting her offer. However, she is hoping to go to Uni next September.

Anyway, she just got in from a Maths exam which sounds like it went well. Phew!

voilets Wed 03-Jun-15 14:23:43

I didn't misread whatiactuallysaid. I understand your DD is going to uni and preparing for a gap year would have taken off added stress of meeting uni requirements. What I should have added to my post is students can defer after results if they feel petered out and need a gap but also that 3 months off in the summer before uni is quite a good break and this is what I told my DS last year. He started work in October.

Conscientious students do often find exams so stressful so I do wish your DD every success - such efforts surely will pay off. In my days at uni, first year was not so hard. I'm not sure how it is now. My DS and we will find out in September when he goes off too. Fingers crossed he gets that last grade! He's not over fussed (although he does really want to go to uni), not flat out working - just moderately hard - hence one grade below target last year. Luckily, we had already planned the gap year.

Once again, thank you for the post.

WhatIActuallySaid Wed 03-Jun-15 15:45:09

Violets ohh, sorry I can see what you meant now. blush Yes, you are right, they do get a lovely long summer holiday. I hope my DD will be able to relax and enjoy herself. Im looking forward to spoiling her.

Thanks for the good wishes smile and good luck for your DS on that grade.

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