Exam season: Understanding and supporting adolescent stress

Exam season is a period filled with tension, anticipation and often, overwhelming stress for adolescents. As a therapist specialising in adolescent mental health, I've witnessed firsthand the toll exams can take on young minds. For parents, recognising the signs of exam stress and knowing how to support their adolescents through this challenging time is crucial.


Understanding exam stress

Exam stress refers to the heightened state of anxiety and pressure experienced by students leading up to and during examination periods. This stress can manifest physically, emotionally and behaviourally, impacting various aspects of a student's life.

Physically, adolescents may experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle tension and even digestive issues due to the heightened stress levels. Emotionally, they may feel overwhelmed, irritable, anxious or even depressed. Behaviourally, changes in sleep patterns, appetite and social withdrawal are common indicators of exam stress.

Signs for parents to look out for

As a parent, being attuned to your adolescent's behaviour is crucial during exam season. Look out for the following signs that may indicate your child is struggling with exam stress:

  • Changes in behaviour: Noticeable changes in your child's behaviour, such as increased irritability, mood swings, or withdrawal from social activities, could be red flags indicating heightened stress levels.
  • Physical symptoms: Pay attention to any physical complaints your child may have, such as headaches, stomach aches, or trouble sleeping, which could be manifestations of exam stress.
  • Academic performance: A sudden decline in academic performance or changes in study habits may indicate that your child is struggling to cope with the pressure of exams.
  • Emotional well-being: Monitor your child's emotional well-being by observing their mood and expressions. Signs of anxiety, sadness, or feeling overwhelmed should not be ignored.
  • Communication: Keep communication lines open with your child. Notice if they seem reluctant to talk about school or exams, as this could indicate underlying stress or anxiety.

Supporting adolescents during exam season

As parents, there are several ways you can support your adolescent during exam season:

Encourage healthy habits

Promote a balanced lifestyle by encouraging your child to prioritise adequate sleep, healthy nutrition, regular exercise and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness.

Create a supportive environment

Create an atmosphere of support and encouragement at home. Let your child know that their worth is not solely defined by their exam performance and that you are there to support them, regardless of outcomes.

Help with time management

Assist your child in creating a realistic study schedule that allows for breaks and leisure activities. Teach them effective time management skills to avoid last-minute cramming and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Offer emotional support

Be empathetic and understanding of your child's feelings. Validate their emotions and provide reassurance that it's normal to feel stressed during exams. Offer a listening ear and refrain from adding undue pressure.

Promote self-care

Encourage your child to engage in activities they enjoy outside of studying to help alleviate stress. Whether it's spending time with friends, pursuing hobbies, or simply relaxing, prioritising self-care is essential for maintaining overall well-being.

Seek professional help if needed

If your child's exam stress becomes overwhelming or significantly impacts their daily functioning, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in adolescent mental health.

How counselling can help

Counselling can be a valuable resource for adolescents navigating exam stress. A trained therapist can provide a safe and nonjudgmental space for adolescents to express their feelings, explore coping strategies and develop resilience. Through techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based practices, and relaxation techniques, adolescents can learn to manage their stress more effectively.

Additionally, counselling can help adolescents identify and challenge negative thought patterns, build self-confidence, and develop healthy ways of coping with academic pressure. By addressing underlying issues and providing practical tools for managing stress, counselling empowers adolescents to navigate exam season with greater ease and resilience.

If you're looking for comprehensive guidance on conquering exam stress, check out my book, "Conquering Exam Stress: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Your Mindset" by D M Morgan, available on Amazon.

This book offers practical strategies and insights to help you master your mindset and overcome the challenges of exam stress. Whether you're a student facing upcoming exams or a parent seeking to support your adolescent through this demanding time, "Conquering Exam Stress" provides invaluable tools for success.

In conclusion, exam season can be a challenging time for adolescents, but with understanding, support and effective coping strategies, they can navigate this period successfully. As parents, your role in recognising the signs of exam stress and providing a supportive environment for your child is invaluable in helping them manage stress and achieve academic success.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Guildford GU5 & GU2
Guildford GU5 & GU2

Donna Morgan is a highly experienced Humanistic Mental Health Therapist with 26 years of practice. Her passion for helping individuals with their mental health has driven her to develop a compassionate and holistic approach to therapy. Donna firmly believes in treating each client as a unique individual and providing them with personalised support.

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