Its that time of year again and summer is hopefully just around the corner! For students, this time is EXAM time which brings along with it anxiety, doubt, pressure, excitement and joy. A functional amount of stress in our lives can help us to live well, meet deadlines, get out of bed in the morning, tend to our families and our own needs- this is healthy stress. However, for some this type of stress can be overwhelming and unbearable.
In times of stress, a small region in the brain called Amygdala gets activated, and this sends messages to the body to GET READY and help deal with any threats or pressures. This process is the flight or fight response which can manifest itself in many ways such as anger, withdrawal, catastrophizing or overworking one’s self. Overtime, the impact of this stress reaction can wear you down, and result in both physical and emotional manifestations. Statistics have shown an increase in mental health symptoms of children, adolescents and transitional aged young people. As noted in the Toronto Star (2017) “a major survey of 25,164 Ontario university students by the American College Health Association showed that between 2013 and 2016, there was a 50-per-cent increase in anxiety, a 47-per-cent increase in depression and an 86-per-cent increase in substance abuse. Suicide attempts also rose 47 percent during that period” (The Toronto Star, 2017).
At such a stressful time of year whether you are a parent or young person it is important to connect with yourself, tune into the stress and anxiety that you are feeling, notice it and find ways to take care of yourself during those tough moments.
Here are some helpful strategies to help deal with stress:
S – Stop what you are doing, put things down for a minute.
T – Take a breath. Breathe normally and naturally and follow your breath coming in and of your nose. You can even say to yourself “in” as you’re breathing in and “out” as you’re breathing out if that helps with concentration.
O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You can reflect about what is on your mind and also notice that thoughts are not facts and they are not permanent. If a thought arises, just notice the thought, let it be, and continue on. Notice any emotions that are there and just name them. Then notice your body. Are you standing or sitting? How is your posture? Any aches and pains.
P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment. MINDFUL BREATHING. Our breath is such a great coping tool, it is always there right beside us and can be used in any scenario. When we are anxious, angry or stressed you can often find that your breath become more shallow, which in turn cuts of oxygyn to our brains which makes thinking clearly more difficult. Try breathing from your belly, filling it up like you have a balloon hidden in there, taking in as much oxygen as you can. Sqaure breathing can really help.
- Breath in 4, 3, 2, 1
- Hold breath 4, 3, 2, 1
- Breath out 4, 3, 2, 1
You can do this and count down until you are breathing and holding for one breath.
Check out these links that share some great insight on mindfulness & exam stress: