Exam Fears & Parental Pressure Drives Students to Drink – Discover simple ways to banish exam stress

According to an article in The Metro this week, exam stress and parental pressure are driving many school children to alcohol and self-harming.

The ChildLine counselling service says that 1 in 10 pupils will deliberately scar or hit themselves in the run up to this summers GCSEs and A-Levels, and 14% of students admit to turning to alcohol as they struggle to cope with the stress of exams or their parent’s high expectations. Woe betides the student struggling with a combination of both. Four percent of children also confessed to abusing drugs as a way of dealing with their anxiety, and according to the research, two-thirds are also going without sleep.

These are worrying and heartbreaking statistics in this day and age, given that there is so much help and advice available.

I have been coaching and working with children around preparing for exams, eliminating stress, and making studying something that is easy fun and enjoyable for many years now, so I thought I’d share some ideas about strategies and techniques that I have successfully used with clients as young and 8 years old.

If you are a student or professional gearing up for your exams, I do hope that you find the tips useful. And if you are a parent wondering what you can do to ensure that your child isn’t one of the silent sufferers identified in this research, I hope that you can share the following information with your children. What I share below has been tried and tested working with students from the age of 8 – 16 years of age, as well as working with those studying for professional exams.

For a testimonial from one of the schools where I've taught these techniques and run PhotoReading Sessions go to: http://tranceformationstm.com/pdf/testimonial.pdf


In this note I will share with you 5 quick tips that can reduce stress and anxiety and set your mind up for whole brain learning. In future Notes we will deal with what you can do to enhance your study sessions, plus I'll share a technique which you can use in exams which almost has the exam question start to write itself.

Well yes, of course you are already breathing, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article! However, most people when stressed or under pressure find themselves shallow breathing without even realising it. Shallow breathing deprives your brain of a decent flow of oxygen and automatically makes your study session more difficult.

Take a moment to focus on and relax your breathing. Notice the in breath, notice the out breath, and make a conscious decision to breathe more deeply and circulate the breath throughout the body. The brain doesn’t require much of you, a good supply of oxygen, a regular intake of water, together with some focus and direction, so relaxing your breathing automatically sets you up for a better study or revision session.

When I first observe my clients in ‘study mode’ they often sit staring intently at the books and piles of course material, brow furrowed, and face slightly contorted, almost trying to physically show how hard they are studying and concentrating. The first thing that I say is ‘STOP’ and change your focus and posture (see also Tip #3 below).

The whole act of staring intently at the material sets off the sympathetic nervous system, or what is commonly known as the fight or flight response. The heart is racing, the adrenalin pumping, and creativity starts to shut down so that the logical analytical brain can step in and take over. This part of the brain is great for dealing with those life or death situations, but not so great for reading, learning, retaining information, or studying.

When working with students I show them a quick 5 second exercise to change this so that they can operate from the parasympathetic nervous system which leads to an immediate state of relaxed alertness and what we call the Ideal Learning State. In this state the mind is relaxed and alert, and most importantly, left and right brain are working together so that students gain maximum benefit from their study sessions. It also means that they are able to more easily remember and retain what’s being studied and read.

Going hand in hand with sitting and staring intently at the books, is sitting almost hunched over, as though trying to get even closer to the study material. The chances are, if your posture is stressed and out of alignment, your mind will be experiencing the same too.

For a simple break state, start by rotating the shoulders and shaking the arms out to release any physical tension. Also roll and release the spine and tense and release the thigh and calf muscles.

I teach my clients some very simple but hugely effective movements from the field of Educational Kinesiology. They only take a couple of seconds to complete, and have the effect of not only relaxing the muscles, they also cross the mid line of the body which stimulates both left and right brain integration which is vital when studying.

I know it might sound unbelievable but many students read with no sense of purpose or focus. They spend hours trying to plough through piles of material but if I were stop them and ask “What specifically are you looking for?” the majority would give me a blank stare.

Reading without a Purpose is like taking a journey with no destination, you will end up somewhere, but the chances are it may not be what you had in mind or desired. In studying terms this means you could face the prospect of sitting in the exam room with some information in your head, but not the information that leads to the destination of passing your exams.

When working with students around accelerating their reading and studying skills, we use a simple 5-step technique for gaining clarity around what you want to learn and extract from every book that you read.

Having a sense of Purpose sets off a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System. It’s almost like a heat seeking device, that when programmed with the right information, will automatically find, highlight, and bring the required information to your attention. After using the 5-step process for setting their Purpose, students find that the parts of the text that they are looking for almost ‘leap out’ at them, with very little or no effort on their part. Working with the book becomes more like a 2-way conversation rather than a passive and stressful search and aimless retrieval operation.

One of the fastest ways to get into overwhelm is to take on too much at the outset or have unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved in each study session. When I ask students what they want to achieve from a particular book or subject they often respond along the lines of “I want to know everything about subject X.” It is unlikely that you want or even need to know EVERYTHING about a subject. What you really need is to know about the subject in a way that will allow you to pass your exams.

You want to know the key themes, perhaps how theories fit together, how to apply certain theories or equations, or how to present a reasoned discussion or explanation on a subject. This is a very different proposition from trying to know everything. Trying to go for everything automatically leads to a feeling of overwhelm and despite your best efforts the mind can’t help but start to drop information in order to try and cope with the data being thrown at it.

I would advise students to be strategic in their approach and identify exactly what is required to demonstrate your knowledge and competency. Once they are clear on that, break the subject down into distinct chunks and learn the information in layers as opposed to trying to go for one ‘informational blowout session.’ In terms of studying, the mind and memory work best through repetition and having the information presented in layers, so following this approach will lead to a deeper and longer term understanding of the material.

In my next Note on this subject I will share some techniques that you can use to enhance your study and revision sessions so that you are able to more easily remember and recall what you have read. In the 3rd Note of this series I will give you a super powerful technique that you can use to almost have the exam questions write themselves!

Author's Bio: 

Marilyn Devonish is a Certified PhotoReading™ and accelerated learning trainer, specialising in working with both individuals and organisations who want to accelerate and improve their performance or learn how to get through written information more quickly whilst being able to remember and recall what they have read.

Marilyn has worked with Schools, Corporations, Coaches, Consultants, Therapists, Students, Business Owners, Academics, people with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, and even a team of Rocket Scientists, showing them how to more easily access their untapped potential, skills and capabilities.

She is also a Business Studies Graduate, holder of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Post Graduate Diploma, a Certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, Certified Trainer of Hypnosis, Certified Trainer of Time Line Therapy, Certified Life and Executive Coach, Management Consultant and Practitioner of Huna, EFT, Reiki and DNA Theta Healing.

In addition Marilyn is a public speaker, freelance writer, magazine columnist, and has featured extensively on TV and radio. With over 25 years industry experience Marilyn brings together a unique blend of business skills and cutting edge personal change technologies which creates a transformational and powerful learning environment.

For further information and background about the PhotoReading™ Whole Mind System go to: http://tranceformationstm.com/photo.html

Tel: + 44 (0) 1923 337282
E-mail: marilyn@tranceformationTM.com