Exam Survival Tips

Home Article - Leaving Cert Stress Survival Tips

With Leaving and Junior Cert exam season almost upon us, it’s important we try our best to keep our teenagers calm and their mental health protected. We’ve all been there and know how easy it was to let the stress get the better of us! Nothing is more important than the health and happiness of our children, so we’ve put together some stress management tips that can help during exam time.

Before the exams:

  • Make sure your teenager is 100% familiar with their exam timetable. This way they can figure out their study priorities and create a plan. Breaking down each day or week of study can make it all feel less daunting, and help your teenager feel they have a handle on what’s to come.
  • A designated study space is crucial to productivity. A quiet, bright area, clear of distraction is perfect. Ideally have this study area away from the kitchen or living room – these areas are where your child can take a break and remove themselves completley from the study environemnt.
  • Help them understand that different study methods work better for different people, so how their friends are studying may not be ideal for them, and that’s okay. Some people are aural learners so recording themselves reciting maths equations or historic dates and listening back might work better than writing on flashcards. Studying well is more important than studying a lot, and identifying their own most effective methods helps improve productivity, well-being and combats stress.
  • Make sure they’re taking lots of breaks so they don’t burn themselves out. Remind them their health comes first. Studying in 30 to 40 minute chunks with 10 minute breaks in between can help keep concentration levels up. During these breaks they should get away from their desk or study area and walk around, getting some fresh air if possible.
  • We all know that exercise has a positive impact on mood, mental health and quality of sleep. A busy mind can make it very difficult to switch off and sleep, but some daily exercise can remedy this. If your child does not enjoy sports or exercise, short walks to and from the shop or to a friends house will work too.
  • Discuss their options for the future with them. Planning ahead and exploring different avenues helps give the stressful exam season an exciting end goal and something to strive towards. At the same time, make sure your teen understands it is not the end of the world if they don’t get the results they want – there are so many options.
  • It’s good practice for your teenager to time themselves when writing out their answers and essays, in keeping with the allocated time they get during the exam. This avoids rushing and panicking on the day.

During the exams:

  • It can be tempting for teens to snack on sugary, junk food during exams but this will negatively affect their health and ultimately leave them feeling sluggish and low on energy during their tests. This three-week period is a big one in their lives, so it’s worth buying them the healthier snacks and fruit they enjoy if it will help steer them away from junk food.
  • Sleeping well is crucial each night after before an exam. Sleeping lets the mind process what it has learned during the day, store that information and allows rejuvenation. This will help your teen feel ready to take on the next exam. Encourage them to leave their phone outside of their bedroom before they head to bed. This can be a tricky one! So remind them it’s only for the duration of their exams.
  • Encourage them to vent or talk their concerns out. A problem shared really is a problem halved and having them talk to you, a friend or even a teacher or guidance councellor can be really helpful. Teachers have seen it all a hundred times and may have some stress management tips for exam season that we as parents wouldn’t think of!
  • It may sound like a cliche, but mindful breathing is great for managing stress. Breathing in deeply through the nose and slowly out through the mouth lowers heart rate and calms nerves, and can really help if your teenager has a moment when they feel frazzled!

To read some of our quick and easy 5 minute mindfulness exercises that both students and parents may find useful, click here.

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