Top Tips Tuesday – Reducing exam stress in teenagers

About this time of year the realities of those all-important exams starts to kick in for children and parents alike.  This can create stress for the whole family, not just the student taking the tests, so if you have a teenager studying for GCSEs or A-Levels – or even a younger child worrying about those pesky SATS and summer exams, helping to reduce exam stress for them will probably make life easier for everyone!  We have a helpful guest post by Oxfordshire-based clinical hypnotherapist, Linda Flanigan, with some top tips on reducing exam stress for your children.  Good luck!

We all need a certain amount of stress to perform well. Stress is our bodies’ internal natural rapid response system when we perceive some kind of danger.   

Too much stress, however, can have a negative effect and cause a number of reactions such as tiredness, lack of motivation, decrease in focus, irritability or over/under eating. Once the panic sets in some students find it difficult to study; they procrastinate and look for any kind of distraction. Others won’t stop working as they’re so anxious and find it difficult to remember what they’ve learned. They all have the added pressure of worrying about what will happen if they don’t get the results they want or are expected to achieve.

So what can we do to support them? Here are my top tips. Image

– Help them to get organised

At times like this they often freeze. Help them create timetables or wallcharts with deadlines and to prioritise work so that they don’t get overwhelmed with unnecessary things or don’t try to cram in everything at once. For example, they may need to spend more time on the things they find more challenging rather than giving equal time to everything or focusing on too many subjects at once.

– Find them a quiet place

Make sure they have somewhere to study where there are minimal distractions. Some students find that relaxing music helps them to focus.

– Make sure their schedules include time to relax

We can only keep totally focused for a limited period so, after each hour of study, have them take a 5-10 minute break. A change of scene, focusing on something else, walking or playing some sport will all help. They can test themselves, on their return, on what they learned before their break.

– Teach them to breathe

Breathing slowly and deeply can help them to calm down. When we are anxious we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Sitting quietly, concentrating on their breathing for 5 minutes, a couple of times a day, can improve their focus and help them to retain what they’ve learned.

– Borrow from sports psychology

 This is not about daydreaming of the perfect results: they still have to put in the work! Get them to visualise the necessary steps to reach their goal: to visualise themselves working and getting all the skills and knowledge they need to do well in the exam. Teach them to sit down and use all their senses to creatively imagine themselves at their desks, studying well, soaking up the information, storing it and taking it with them to the exams: what can they see, how does it feel to be so focused, where in their bodies can they notice that feeling, what can they hear, smell, touch etc., as they visualise the scene. Using some positive affirmations as they visualise it helps, for example I am a good learner, I am strong, I am focused”. It helps them to be calmer about the whole process and to focus their attention on what’s needed. Visualising also helps them to think their way through potential problems.

– Use the stress to advantage!

Using their stress symptoms positively can actually help: if they’re feeling anxious remind them that it’s a sign that the body is getting energy which is good as they can use that energy to keep alert and focused during their exams.

Linda Flanigan is a Clinical Hypnotherapist specialising in anxiety, stress and phobias. You can contact Linda at the following:

T:  07866 360359


or at Clinic on the Green, Bletchingdon

T: 01869 351345 E:

———————————– Stock image courtesy of Hvaldez1 


3 thoughts on “Top Tips Tuesday – Reducing exam stress in teenagers

  1. mumsnetsuffolkandnorfolk says:

    More tips- make sure they know their study style and learn how to potentiate it- it is terribly counterproductive to try to make them revise in a particular manner if this is so not them.

    Diet and fluids- ensure they have plenty of good things to eat, a place to eat that allows them time away from their books and that they maintain a hydrated body. The effects of dehydration are insidious. Getting a glass of water or juice into a flagging body can give that crucial extra fifteen minutes of brain power if they absolutely cannot step away.

    Don’t tell them they can always retake. Teenagers are not wired psychologically or cognitively to think of the long game. They cannot see life in terms of other possibliities should they fail. However YOU can. Make sure you have all the resources you need should those results turn out to be better or worse than expected- UCAS contact details, local college numbers, other course details- all at your fingertips so you can step in and help them should their world crash down around them.

    Make sure that your hayfever prone child has seen the doctor and has effective medication and a meds regime well established before exams start. The morning of that maths exam? Not the best time to try that new anti hayfever pill.


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