Supporting a young person's resilience during study and exams

By Mr Mike Meadowcroft | Posted: Thursday November 10, 2016

Study and exam periods can be stressful for all of us, no matter what age we are. Young people are still working on building resilience – it can feel like their whole future is destined by the results of just one exam – so it’s not surprising that it’s a stressful period.

Brushing aside their concerns by saying things like, “it will be okay”, or suggesting there is “no need to stress” aren’t always helpful. Instead try things like “it sounds like its pretty overwhelming at the moment. What can I do right now that would be helpful?” to validate how they feel, and offer support.

Tips to support a young person over the study and exam period:

  • Encourage them to have a study plan before they begin – if they know what they are studying and when they will feel in control of their work.
  • Ensure they get sufficient exercise and take breaks during the study period. Studying for a couple of hours and then playing a game of basketball with their friends, or going for a bike ride, will actually yield better study results.

Support them to eat well:

  • Provide lots of nutritious snacks to prevent them hoovering the M&Ms, pizza and pies as their study fuel.
  • Ensure they are getting sufficient sleep to be renewing their mental energy. If a late study night is called for, then work on regaining that rest or sleep the next day.

It's quite normal for a young person to have moments of panic in an exam, or suddenly feel completely blank. The following activity takes only 20-30 seconds and it can completely reverse the panic cycle. Try it with your young person before they go into an exam so that it will feel natural and easy to do when needed.

Once you start to panic, notice your breathing. Often it has become quick and shallow. Feel for your pulse on your wrist – its located two-finger width below the base of your thumb, and slowly count to 20. In this time focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Tell yourself, “I’ve got this, I’m going to be fine” and continue to breathe deeply until the panic feelings subside or you can reflect clearly on the exam in front of you. Repeat as and when necessary.

Students - Have some compassion

For yourself. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, or to go through periods when coping is more difficult. But what we do know is that there are things you can do to ensure the impact is lessened, or the time you spend climbing back up the ladder of life is shorter.

Try one of these three easy ways to show yourself some love.

  • Consider how you'd treat someone else - imagine what you'd say to a friend feeling the way you do right now.
  • Watch your language - pay attention to the words you use to speak to yourself, and avoid being self-critical.
  • Comfort yourself with a physical gesture - putting your hands over your heart or even just holding your arm can help you get out of your head and back in touch with the moment.