Stress Free Guide to Exams – Works on anyone looking to achieve more at stressful times too!
As I sit next to my snoozing poorly daughter who has another migraine (In the hope we can starve it off) I want to talk about stress and its impact on your success.
The irony is that my gorgeous girl used to have a 3 to 8-day migraine every month until she started on Tessellate CBD so it’s a shocker to find her suffering a 2nd one after only 4 days from the last one. She’s being investigated for Lupus like her Mum and so while we expect it to be a big tougher for her, the exam stress is already getting to her and they aren’t for another 4 months!
I’m impressed by how many emails her school send me about revision guides and after school revision sessions, but devasted that I’ve not heard one word mentioned relating to;
- Burn out.
- Mental health.
- Time management.
- Achieving goals.
Shall I go on?
According to a study by Girl Guiding Organisation “More than half of girls (52%) say exam pressures affect how happy they are, yet four in five say they don’t get the support they need to manage exam-related stress.”
And in my role as a coach I see many women who suffer a lack of confidence and if you’re happy and positive about your capabilities guess how confident you feel? I honestly question if there is a direct link between the drop in confidence in our young adults and the pressures of teen life.
It is something I’ve long wanted to be involved in schools, because so many of my coaching clients are;
- Unproductive – or no way near as productive as they become through our coaching.
- Working ridiculously long hours – clients soon learn how to achieve more and leave the desk at a decent hour.
- Stressed bordering on burn out.
- Uncreative – their brains are far too full of life and stuff!
- Have no social life – there’s not enough hours in the day for that!
- Bordering on being mentally unwell.
It is not a crime to look after your mind so that you can look after the body and your success so I really struggle to understand why the school is only dealing with the knowledge and not the vessel they hope to store the knowledge in!
AS I advise clients, you are not a robot or a superhuman so if you don’t listen to your body it will play up just when you need it most. Do you get ill just before a holiday or Christmas? My clients not only achieve their goals they also find they get ill less – no shocker is it that our minds impact on our bodies is it?
So for all teenagers out there about to sit exams, all worried parents and any one else that loves supporting the success of teens here’s a top tip guide to creating a stress free exams tool kit.(For the record it works just as well on executives, business owners, CEO’s, job seekers, parents and everyone else on the planet that wants to achieve more.)
Teens aren’t the only ones that hide what’s really going on. And they aren’t the only ones suffering as a result. To change the results, you get you need to be honest about what you are experiencing. In coaching I raise awareness to what is going on, help clients take ownership of it and responsibility for it (believing it’s just life or it’s nothing to do with you, stops you from creating lasting change) and then they can create a plan of action. So, find someone to talk to. It could be multiple people;
- A coach figure to help you create a plan of action, to visualise the results you want, keep you motivated and supported.
- A parent that you can off load to. Not expecting any help, just a hug and 2 good listening ears. (If that person talks more than you then they aren’t a good listener and you aren’t getting what you need from that relationship.)
- A friend who will take you away from all that.
Think about what kind of support you would like and who in your world could provide it?
Be honest – ask for help!
None of us like owning up to needing help. Remember as I talk about in Fight the fear even the cross-channel swimmer gets someone else to rub on the Goose fat otherwise they can’t see where they are going because their goggles are greased up! No one successful get’s there on their own. A perfect example of this is the clients who I helped get life in order and now they still see me because they want to keep life in order. Asking for help is not a sin in it’s a saviour! So, look for the reasons why you are not honest;
- What are thinking?
- Have you assumed that person won’t help?
- That you can’t be helped?
- That there is no solution?
Challenge your thoughts to be able to get over yourself and speak up.
Study and play
Studying together is great if you make time to veg out, watch TV, hang out at the shops, slap on face masks, share dodgy Memes, and anything else that takes you out of your daily life. We all need down time, ideally don’t be attached to your phone, but phones are useful too (see below). So, ask yourself if I had a go to wish list of things to do with my friends over the next 5 months what would they include? Make it visual. Tell your friends. Get the diary out and book something and don’t cancel it! Your brain needs space to process what you are learning. (That’s not an excuse not to revise!)
Phones are friends, not foe.
I struggle to understand why phones aren’t taught in school. We have never seen so much anxiety and mental health in this planet and I think it is in no small part down to our inability to use our phones for good, not destruction. A successful person has apps that;
- Monitor your productivity
- Monitor your social media time.
- Mind maps to process thoughts and goals.
- Productivity tools to ensure your to do list gets done in priority order.
- Even games that bring mindfulness and calm.
Just research apps for stress and you will find something right for you. Not convinced it’s never been so important to master your phone.
Phones are not currently listed as an addiction, is that because they aren’t addictive or because the list has not been updated! Phone issues I see in clients include;
- Unable to step away.
- Fear of missing out.
- Convinced they must answer everyone immediately.
- Stress, overwhelm, sadness and a fear of failure because their lives don’t look like those on their social media.
- Distress that the world is ending and nothing good ever happens!
These are signs that you aren’t controlling your social media – your social media is controlling you! Here are a few ideas to take phone control;
- Create rules for answering people – i.e. “I will not answer text/email/social media messages between the hours of 8pm and 8am.”
- Change who you see – if you have a social media friend that only shares disturbing, destressing and upsetting content whether you feel it at the time or not that is impacting on your mindset (and we don’t’ have time here to talk about the damage that has on your success!) Snooze them or unfriend them, they won’t know. And if they say anything just say, “you know those algorithms!” your social media should inspire you, motivate you and make you feel good about life – if it doesn’t you need to change it.
- Notice how your time on your phone makes you feel.
When my children sat their 11+ they were the only children that ran out of school with big grins, parents would often remark “Why aren’t your kids stressed out?” The reason my kids stayed sane was because we discussed them before hand;
1. We talked about how the exams were measuring the school’s ability to teach and not them.
2. The secondary school they were going to had already advised they took no measurement from the 11+ so it was not important, their overall attitude and learning capabilities were far more important.
3. If they failed and couldn’t get into their perfect school, it was not the end of the world.
Failure is good for you
For most of our children this is their first big adventure into the scary land of failure. As a child your parents would ensure that you got what you wanted (or Father Christmas did!) then suddenly it’s landed on their shoulders. After GCSE’s many want to go to University, some can see dream career paths (my daughter wants to be a cardiac thoracic heart surgeon!) and suddenly there is a potential block in the road.
Successful people understand that when obstacles arise, we can always overcome them. Failure helps us to understand who we are, it helps us define what we want out of life and how we will get it. And it helps us appreciate how much passion we have to ensure we always have the drive to keep going.
It is not this has to work or that won’t happen
As I advised my daughter, if she is not suited to passing exams there will be other ways to help people. It could be that cutting people open and saving lives is not what she is meant to do in the form of a surgeon but that won’t stop her from training as a paramedic, there’s no denying their brilliance!
There is always a way and GCSE’s are not the end of the road, they are just the start. So don’t think so laterally. Think big picture.
I’m really unhappy how much pressure is created in schools. You must pass!
For the record I only got a C in A level English and I have a book that is in 5 languages sold around the world and made it to WH Smith’s top 10 books! Miss Grimstone, My English teacher, told me I was a lousy writer and here I am writing for Lifehack that has over 150 million readers!
Check out the celebs that failed too; Lord Alan Sugar only has 1 GCSE and he is worth about 1.4 billion! And poor old Richard Branson left school at 16 and now has 200 companies in 30 countries around the world, while loser Steven Spielberg was rejected from Film School! And there’s plenty more including Adele, Harry Styles, Zoella, Eminem and Leonardo DiCaprio.
My daughter’s own Grandad has severe dyslexia, rarely attended school and had an automotive business that he sold for well over a million pounds. Not through what he achieved at school, but damn hard work, dedication and commitment. Exams are not the be all and end all – sorry teachers, they really aren’t. Look at how you adjust your perception of where you are right now.
As you look to shift perception, look at what values matter most to you and then no matter where you go in life you will find true happiness and success that matters to you.
Values may include anything you like;
- Success – what does that look like?
- Helping people
Come up with 10 values that mean the world to you and then use the values exercise in chapter one of my book to see how essential that knowledge is for life.
You can’t fuel your body on sugar and crap. My daughter makes herself a proper breakfast every day – she will have a variety of things including scrambled eggs with salmon, toast, fruit, cereal, but always a proper breakfast and she prepares a proper meal every day for lunch and often cooks the evening meal . You may ask why I’m not doing this?
- Within 2 years she will be at University and I won’t be there to do it, so she needs a repertoire of dishes she can rely on now, that way at university everything else that is new can be handled and cooking a decent meal will be second nature.
- Time out from study gives your brain space to process what you are learning and practice “Do I really know Pythagoras theory”?
- It is unrelated to work in any way so it’s good for reducing stress, calming down and switching off. Ever made a cheese sauce and noticed you get a Eureka moment on something you’ve been struggling with? Your brain will create solutions if you give it the space (and time) to do it.
There are various breathing exercises that have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in seconds. One practised by the Navy seals is called the Box method.
Breathe in for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds, smile right? Do this for a minute and notice the results.
According to Examined Existence this works because (and here’s the science)
“This breathing method works because of the physiological effect breathing has on the nervous system. Breathing slowly and deeply activates the hypothalamus, which is connected to the pituitary gland in the brand, to send out neurohormones that block stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline from being released. This thereby triggers a relaxing response from the body. Additionally, breathing deeply and slowly triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to secrete hormones that decrease blood pressure and heart rate, which also induces a relaxation response in the body.”
Notice your breathing and practice at bedtime, there are lots of apps that help you do this.
Getting out in nature has been proved to reduce stress, so don’t be a slave to your studies, record your revision on your phone and get walking. This interactive way of learning has many benefits. And a change of environment is good for you. Many business owners tell me they do 16-hour days, that’s not impressive, it’s foolish. Step away from your desk at least every 60 minutes (smart watches are great for reminding you to do this!) Read on for more on this…
Don’t work harder, work smarter, I’d love just a penny for every time I hear this. Here is a quick down and dirty guide to actually doing this, what will you include in your stress-free exams tool kit?
- Boundaries – tell people what you are doing by when.
- Honesty – if you fear you can’t complete the tasks by when, ask for an extension, don’t whine, show your teachers/parents your planned actions for today and this week and ask “Where will I have time to do this? Ensure your planner outside of school includes a walk, reading for fun time, reading for revision time, self-care time and don’t move it.
- Be open to working in a different way. Listening to what works for others can lead to top time management strategies. “Only if you put them into action!) None of us know everything so try new techniques.
- Be realistic, you do need to study too! Showing your peers your planner and your teachers and parents helps them and you to be accountable to the solution.
- Clear goals – be realistic on what can be achieved in an hour. And set chunk goals – 40 minutes to do X, 20 minutes to do X. Any task that takes longer than that needs breaking down again, but don’t get bogged down in planning – wow I’ve seen some great flow charts, mindmaps and gant charts from new clients – heck they’ve done none of it, but hey it looks pretty.
- Show your plans in a way that suits you – not trends. I have only 3 to 5 tasks per day on a small piece of paper, it keeps me motivated, accountable and focused. I also have a 10-day plan on a large piece of paper, and you guessed it only 3 to 5 tasks towards my goals (that are written on the top of the paper) per day. This works find a plan that suits you.
- Time it – if you procrastinate, hate it or just loathe doing it time how long a task takes. Interestingly clients that do this report that the things they love take longer than the things they hate, so set a stopwatch and get going! Sorry, but that includes tidying your room, helping out with chores and other things you think you can shy away from. In the big wide world of work, you will have deadlines and commitments, learning now how to juggle personal and professional life will put you way ahead of your peers (and other job seekers!)
- Look for weaknesses, my weakness is social media, so I turn it off. I leave my phone out of reach but in ear shot. Be honest here, you are only fooling yourself. If I really can’t be trusted to not go online then I give my phone to my daughter!
Know on a good day how to deal with a bad day. It’s not easy looking for solutions when you are stressed out, so know today what would help you change your mindset, calm down and get back on tract. Write a list, create a vision board, make it visual to remind you.
Choose different music for study, for relaxation, for fun, for stress release – don’t choose the same music, it loses its power.
Students who take water into the examination halls may improve their grades; a study of 447 people found. As reported by the BBC water could improve your grades, so don’t always wait for the exams to ensure you’ve water at hand!
A little helping hand.
I have always used a bit of Rescue remedy, when I was petrified of public speaking, I would use this, whether it was the placebo effect or the remedy it helped. So, I’m getting my daughter some. (For the record, that is why I’m so good at fixing people’s fear of public speaking because I know how it feels!)
My daughter is good at reaching for the aromatherapy. Rosemary for study. Lavender for sleep. We have over 80 oils in our house and she will explore how she is feeling, look it up on her phone and choose and oil accordingly.
Tessellate CBD. I have been taken this since May last year and it’s changed my life (I know how crazy that sounds so I rarely talk about it) it’s not illegal, it aids sleep, anxiety and many many symptoms my daughter and I used to suffer. I’m going to get my daughter on the higher 10% dose for the next 5 months to help. She has only ever taken the 5% before.
Lastly, over to you.
Yoga, running, dancing, painting, singing, hobbies, tai chi, look for things in life that make you feel good and at them too!
Very lastly (promise) make it visual.
You won’t stick to these stress-free exams tool kit unless you make it visual;
- Make an info-graphic or poster and stick it on your phone as your home screen.
- Pin it up in your wardrobe door.
- Paint a picture that reminds you of your plan to stay stress free, focused, calm and avoid the overwhelm, over load and overworked that I see in so many professionals (before they start working with me) It will be a game changer for your future self