In just over 4 weeks’ time, Leaving Certificate 2017 will commence. The build up to the Leaving Certificate will prove stressful for many students and understanding how to identify stress and how to deal with it will be important.
The term ‘stress’ means many things to different people. Stress is not a direct product of cultural evolution but rather a product of natural selection. Everyone is familiar with stress. We all experience it in varying forms every day. In small quantities stress can actually be beneficial to us. It is only when stress becomes too great, affecting our physical or mental functioning, that it becomes a problem, which can result in leaving individuals feeling overwhelmed, confused, exhausted and edgy.
During specific times in the academic calendar, students experience higher than usual stress levels. Worrying about the future and guilt about not studying enough are normal thought patterns around exam time which give rise to stress and anxiety. It is important to recognise when stress levels may be going beyond a helpful level, symptoms can include;
• Poor concentration
• Poor short term memory
• Recurring worrying thoughts
• Lack of tolerance for others
• Anxious about little things
• Prone to bursts of anger and tears
• Indications of feeling ‘down’, alone or misunderstood
• Disturbed sleep
• Poor appetite.
If Leaving Certificate students feel that they may be suffering from stress it is imperative that they try and keep things in perspective and discover techniques of reducing stress. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress during exam periods. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies (examples are listed below) and remember focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
Remember; stress can in fact prevent students from doing their best. Therefore, it is critical that students seek intervention. Such intervention includes;
• Learning a good relaxation technique, which individuals should practice daily in the lead up to their exams so that they can easily access and recall this technique on the day; such techniques include; muscle relaxation and breathing exercises.
• It may also be helpful to seek help from a counsellor if individuals feel overwhelmed.
• Taking study breaks and getting some fresh air and some exercise will help reduce stress levels.
• Practice is key; therefore students should by now be practicing past exam papers.
• It is important to reduce caffeine intake (especially energy drinks, caffeine tablets) – these can cause heart palpitations and panic attacks.
• Eat well (especially complex carbohydrates).
• Sleep well.
• Have a number of options for the future – Getting the marks to secure your first preference is great, but it is not the end of the world if you don’t – there are other options to get into your chosen career/course (e.g. PLC courses). Explore all avenues with your career guidance counsellor or contact Galway Careers Clinic for assistance. Remember you have until 1 July to submit a CAO change of mind form.
It is very important that students try to keep things in perspective and remember that grades are not a measure of your value as a human being, nor do they measure intelligence or creativity.
For further information on all careers and educational issues contact Clodagh A. Higgins of Galway Careers Clinic, Salthill, Galway by phone on 091-581234, by email at email@example.com or visit www.galwaycareersclinic.com