Support for young people experiencing exam stress and anxiety
Pressure to do well in exams can be overwhelming and affect young people’s mental health – but help is available.
During this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May), Dorset HealthCare’s Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in schools service is advising children and young people how to cope with exam stress and signposting them to help if they need it.
Throughout the week, the service will be presenting at schools across the county and sharing tips on how to reduce exam stress and manage feelings of anxiety. Staff will also share information about various coping mechanisms via social media channels.
Some top tips from the team on reducing exam stress include:
- be realistic and focus on what you can achieve - make a plan, break it up and give yourself time to unwind before going to bed
- take time to relax too – have a bath, watch TV, be creative
- keep active – exercise raises hormone levels, so you feel energised and less stressed. Even a short walk to get some fresh air will wake you up
- drink lots of water – it helps concentration
- keep the room you are revising in clean – a clear space equals a clear mind
- reduce your phone usage and move it away from you when revising
- talk to a friend, parent or teacher. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Nova Bovaird, Clinical Lead (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) for the MHSTs in schools service, said:
“Parents and carers can help their child manage exam stress and anxiety if they don’t feel like they are coping. Listen to your child, give them support and avoid criticism. Remind your child that it’s normal to feel anxious. Nervousness is a natural reaction to exams.
“But if anxiety is getting in the way rather than helping, encourage your child to speak with a teacher who can offer support and get some more help if needed. We work with schools to help children feel more resilient, giving them techniques to look after themselves and strategies to help them cope better with life’s ups and downs.”
A child or young person may show signs of being stressed or anxious if they have headaches or stomach pains, are not sleeping well, lose interest in food (or eat more than normal) or seem low or irritable.
A pocket guide to coping skills and wellbeing is available for download.
And children and young people can seek out direct support from MHSTs by speaking to a teacher or their school’s designated mental health lead. School staff and parents can also contact the team if they have any concerns about a pupil.
Find out more about which schools currently have an MHST by visiting the CAMHS website.
The MHST service is currently being rolled out across Dorset, so if the team is not working in a certain school, children, young people and families should speak to their school to gain support and find out what extra help is available if they need it.
Dorset HealthCare offers a wide range of mental health support for all ages – visit www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/takeastep to find out more, or call the Trust’s 24/7 Connection phone line (0800 652 0190) or NHS 111 for urgent support.