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Stress and pressure are a normal part of life; while they can leave us feeling tired or down, a small amount can motivate a person, help them focus and provide extra energy to get through a short-term situation. In the long-term though, stress can be detrimental and so it needs to be managed properly or it can consume us and leave us unable to accomplish the simplest of tasks.
The Leaving Cert and Junior Cert examinations have just started and some young people are now feeling motivated while others are feeling overwhelmed. Like anything else in life, having the right tools and solutions allows us to deal effectively with stressful situations and make the most of exams and other situations we may face in the future.
How to keep going during a stressful time:
Eating and Sleeping – Often overlooked, but your basic biological needs have a huge impact on your overall well-being and brain power! During exam times you will need more sleep and good food to recover from the amount of mental energy you are exerting. Plenty of research has shown the impact of certain foods on brain power and that memory performs poorly with lack of sleep. Irregular sleeping patterns and bad eating habits can increase your stress levels.
Physical signs – Learn to recognise stress! If you are feeling constantly tired, have difficulty sleeping, unexplained aches, poor appetite, increased heart rate, headaches, blurred vision or dizziness, these can all be signs you are under stress and need to take time out. Your body is trying to communicate to you that something is not right and it needs time to recover.
Psychological signs – These include feeling forgetful, suffering a loss of interest in activities, increased anxiety and worries, irritability and lack of concentration. These can also be signs of other health concerns, especially depression, but reducing your stress in general can reduce these symptoms. You can always speak to someone if you are concerned about these symptoms. Giving your mind a break is essential.
Perspective – Keep in mind that these are exams: while they are important, they do not define everything about you or determine your whole life. This is a short-term situation and things will not always be like this. If you plan on going to college, learning as soon as you can how to manage exams is essential. In the long run your health and well-being are the most important things and these should always come first.
Talk – Expressing how you are feeling and having someone listen to you and understand your difficulties is one of the best ways to de-stress.
Goals – What do you want to achieve? Make your goals realistic and use them to keep yourself focused. For some this may be passing all their exams and for others it may be achieving a certain mark; either way do not be influenced by what others are doing, your goals are personal to you and reflect your own abilities and achievements.
Treat yourself – You are working hard, so make plans for yourself for the summer after your exams! If you can afford to go on holiday or take a break - do it; if you can not do not worry, you can always find ways take care of yourself – celebrating with friends, watching your favourite shows, eating your favourite food, spending time with people you love.
If you feel others are contributing to your stress, try to stay around positive people and those who make you feel good about yourself. Do not compare yourself with others, nobody has walked in your shoes. If you are having trouble identifying what helps you relax, have a chat with someone about it. Only you know exactly what is best for you, take on board advice and tips from others but always do what feels right and the exams will be over before you know it.
If you feel you need more information in relation to this talk to your local GP or for more information contact us at the Letterkenny Youth Information Centre on 074-9129640.