How to Combat and Manage Exam Stress in young people and teens
Updated: May 23
I recently hosted a parenting show on Marlow FM, and a key subject focus we covered was exam
stress in young people and teens. Very apt at a time exams are just starting! It’s often difficult to
manage this as a parent, wanting to support your teen without overwhelming them. From the
perspective of sleep coaching, exams can be anxiety and stress inducing, and this can have a major impact on sleep, which is critical, especially at this time.
The very knowledgeable and experienced teen expert, Clare Cogan of ‘’Creating Calm’’ (solution focused therapist specialising in Teen Mental Health), joined us on the show and covered some really useful key points, which are summarised in her fantastic blog here.
You can find more on Clare's website here.
Facebook & Instagram: @clarecogancreatingcalm
In addition to this we had some great tips from the Seed Wellness team, all specialising in different areas of support. Read on for their tips below:
A key point in this whole thing is to remember who is sitting the exams. They are - not you! So try and manage your own stress levels. If you are stressed on their behalf they won’t thank you for it, and it means you won’t actually be supporting them in the most helpful way.
But, what is the most helpful way? Well, the best that we can do for our teens is to provide a stable, reliable, consistent home environment. Keep the boundaries, such as decent bed times, i.e. trying to help them get a good night’s sleep, good food, good hydration (eg. check they’ve taken their water bottle into school and it’s got water in it). Providing a calm home for them to be in will really help in a sub-conscious way. If we can focus on what we can do to help, under cover and behind the scenes, we can let them focus on their part.
It’s also important to maintain perspective. There will be some teens who are totally ready and prepared, and there will be a lot who do not feel that way. Andy that’s ok…GSCE’s are not the be all and end all in life. Whilst they feel important to us now, remember, this is just a stepping stone along their teenage life. Exams can be re-taken, and failing is a normal experience in life. Of course we don’t want to fail, and if we do (as we all have) it’s about picking ourselves up and re-assessing and learning from our experiences.
Check in with them and if you feel they need extra support then explore what would feel helpful. This may be speaking with a teacher at school, getting help with a revision plan, having a session with a counsellor, seeing a favourite Aunt or Uncle or doing something that they find calming or relaxing such as meditation, sports, a puzzle or colouring in. Anything that helps with the overwhelm they may be experiencing.
Remember, teens are all developing at their own pace, some mature earlier, others later. If you can remember that they are where they are meant to be that can also help, even when you don’t believe it’s where they should be. This is their life and they are learning how to make decisions, and, although often difficult, we need to allow them to learn how to do that, whilst maintaining safe boundaries and stability for them to return to when and if they need it.
From a psychological point of view, it's good to remember that not all stress is bothersome.
Sometimes it can be great for helping us focus and concentrate and a little bit of stress before exams is completely normal.
When stress is getting in the way of being able to study and have downtime, I’d always start with
getting teenagers to recognise this and work out what they do when they are stressed. Does it come out as irritability, anger, or something else? Gently encouraging them to distinguish between unhelpful and helpful stress can be very useful. Then try using stress management techniques such as breathing, relaxation, going for a walk, talking to a friend, and factoring in scheduled downtime. Monitoring what works for your teen can help. Sometimes just getting some revision done and then knowing they are able to relax can be the best way to help them.
Alongside this of course, good sleep, diet, exercise - even just a brisk walk or swim will all be super useful to manage stress levels.
There are many homeopathic remedies for exam anxiety but just to mention a few that could help:
For teens whose mind goes blank during revision/exams and therefore can perform poorly. They may feel weak, dull and drowsy and experience feeling less thirsty than usual.
Lycopodium: Helps those with performance anxiety, fear of failure and who typically overprepare (though generally do well in exams). These teens often suffer with bloating and flatulence and crave sweets.
Argentum Nitricum: This will help teens who often struggle with anticipatory anxiety from performance pressure, causing loose stools/diarrhoea. Their memory is weak and they believe they will fail. They have a desire for sweets and salty food. They can be impulsive, and do things in a hurry. Often thirsty for frequent small drinks.
Kali Phosphoricum: This remedy will help with exhaustion due to overwork. These teens will struggle with anxiety and an inability to cope, and they are jumpy and oversensitive. They often suffer with nervous digestive upsets and headaches.
Nikki would of course be happy to take any enquiries too.
The show can be heard again via the link on my website, or here.
I hope you find these brilliant hints and tips helpful for supporting your teen!