The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 11, 2003
Lead Article

How students can cope with exam stress
V. K. Kapoor

Parents and teachers should help children set realistic goals
Parents and teachers should help children set realistic goals

CHANGE the source of the stress. Do something else for a while. Confront the source of the stress. If it is a person, persuade him or her to curb the stress-causing behaviour. Talk about the source of stress. Rid yourself of frustration. Find a good listener and complain. Talk through possible solutions. Shift your perspective. Tell yourself that each new situation or problem is a new challenge, and that there is something to be learned from every experience. Try to see the humorous side of the situation.

Learn skills and attitudes that make tasks easier and more successful. Practise effective organisation and time-management skills. Learn how to say "no" gracefully when someone offers you another attractive (or unpleasant) task about which you have a choice. Tell yourself that this unpleasantness will be over soon and that the whole process will bring you closer to reaching your goal. Mark the days that are left on the calendar, and enjoy crossing out each one as you near the finish.

Take time out for enjoyable activities. Everyone needs a support system. Get regular physical exercise and practice sound nutrition.

Unhealthy ways to cope with stress

  • Escaping through alcohol, drugs, frequent illness, sleep, overeating, or starving themselves.

  • Aiming too low. This reduces stress by eliminating intense pressure or possible feelings of failure.

  • Overscheduling daily life with schoolwork and extracurricular activities, selecting impossibly demanding course-loads, or fussing endlessly over assignments in vain attempts to make them perfect. With this strategy, it is possible to succeed only through superhuman effort; thus the student can save face by setting goals too high for anyone to achieve.


Role of parents, teachers & counsellors

They can help each student understand and cope with his or her intellectual, social, and emotional needs during each stage of development. They can also help each student develop a realistic and accurate self-concept. Parents and teachers need to set realistic expectations for efforts and achievements and help the student choose appropriate goals. It is important to recognise and appreciate efforts and improvement.

Help each student be a whole person. Emotions should be recognised, understood, and used as a valid basis for appropriate behaviours. Show patience. Let students select and strive toward their own goals. Do not compare them or their achievements to others.

Show acceptance and encouragement. Encourage students to work purposefully, thoughtfully, and thoroughly and do the best they can. It is not necessary to excel in every situation.

Accept and reward efforts and the process of working on tasks. Sincere efforts is valuable in itself and deserves reinforcement. These youngsters need to be cherished as individuals, not simply for their accomplishments. They must know that they can go home and be loved — and continue to love themselves — even when they do not finish first or best.

Encourage flexibility and appropriate behaviour. Understanding and following rules does not mean conforming to every situation. There are some occasions when students should not be expected to accommodate others.

Let students live their own lives. Caring adults support, encourage, and celebrate students’ efforts and successes, but they stand back a bit from these efforts and achievements. They let students select and master activities for personal enjoyment.

Be available for guidance and advice.

Stress symptoms in your child

Physical: fatigue; repeated health complaints; red and glazed eyes; and a lasting cough

Family: starting arguments; breaking rules; and withdrawing from the family

Emotional: personality change; sudden mood changes; irritability; low self-esteem; poor judgement; depression; and a general lack of interest

Educational institution: Decreased interest in studies; negative attitude; drop in grades; truancy; and indiscipline.