8 steps to better revision - exam, peer and social media pressure burns out our teenagers

Is your teenager under pressure at school to achieve, achieve and achieve more again?
Our teenagers are under massive pressure as it’s exam season again. The truth is, life shouldn't be ‘stressful’ for 17 year olds. It is though, and that’s a shame.

We see more and more of them at our Clinic this time of the year, stressed out. They are complaining about not being able to sleep, and importantly - never being able to switch off. They are online 24/7. They feel like they are ‘burning out’ and anxious all the time. It’s not just them. It is their parents as well. “It feels like my daughter has been under constant pressure for years since we have been going through GCSEs and now A-levels. She doesn't seem to switch off, always online, never relaxing. We try to go on holiday, but she doesn't seem to relax there either. Not sure what to do.” - says mum of a teenage girl I recently saw.

And, the pressures don't stop at the school gate. Teenagers are also under pressure to achieve outside of school - in sports, music etc, not to mention social media and peer pressure. Add to this the emotional turmoil of trying to find themselves and coping with the normal hormonal changes in their bodies and we have a pressure cooker ready to blow.

So how can we (parents / teachers) help them?

Neuroscience has shown us time and again, that during the learning process, students comfort levels, especially their self-confidence, trust and positive feelings has a critical impact on how they process and store information. A supportive home environment, classroom and communities at school are directly related to the steady state of mind they all need for successful learning and remembering. It is crucial that teachers and parents build a positive emotional environment both in school and at home and teach them to use simple self administered stress reduction techniques (Mindfulness, Breathing techniques and Havening are really useful) - in helping build emotional resilience, so that learning and remembering information becomes more efficient.

Make it very simple like this:

“Calm down. Sit or lie down. Close your eyes. Breath slowly in and out. Feel a sense of calm wash over you as you go on. When you notice thoughts starting to creep in, just bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this for 5-10 minutes and you will find that you become calmer and your thinking becomes clearer.”

This is great place to start any project work from. Have a look at www.freemindfulness.org for free resources.

So here are the 8 steps that students can do:

1. Be aware of stress building up because, unmanaged, it leads to chronic stress, which is difficult to stop once it starts. It tends to build up throughout the year, so make sure at the beginning of the academic year, that you identify potential future stressors and plan ahead. Plan a revision timetable and attend lectures throughout the year in order to make it easier when it comes to the exam period. But make sure you break down that goal into bite-sized goals. This way you’ll know you’re making progress on your journey, and you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete the smaller goals. A feeling of progress and achievement is a beautiful combination.

2. Exercise. Don’t forget that your body needs to move to help you get rid of the build-up of stress hormones in your body. Even 20-30 minutes of exercise a day pays off and helps you have a good night’s sleep or de-stresses your body. You will also increase your levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which can help you reduce stress. You may notice that you are more relaxed throughout the day and are able to think much more clearly too. So this is a win-win.

3. Watch your diet - avoid junk foods, too much caffeine, have a balanced diet and eat at regular intervals, so your body gets the energy it needs to be able to learn and remember better.

4. Picture yourself succeeding. This may sound silly, but remember, this is a very powerful technique, that has been used for decades by top athletes, actors, speakers and various other people to help them succeed and perform at the highest level. The more you see yourself calm and relaxed, and happily passing your exams, the closer you will get to it. If you need more motivation, think about what you’re going to achieve. Think of the future you’re going to create. Visualise it. Go make it happen, because you can.

5. Calm your nerves by Havening - there is a fantastic technique, called Amygdala Depotentiation Technique, better known as Havening, developed by Neuroscientist, Dr Ruden. By using this technique, your brain gets to receive some wonderful delta waves that will calm your nerves before any challenging situation. All you need to do is simply stroke your forehead and cheeks (very much like when you wash your face) or stroke your upper arms for about 5 to 10 minutes and your brain will immediately calm down, giving you the opportunity to concentrate and actually better recall what you have learnt.
6. Sleep. Many studies have shown the importance of good quality sleep, and there are various things you can use to enhance your sleep at night. Avoid caffeinated drinks and sweets. Make sure your sleep is not disturbed by television or radio so your brain can “switch off” and you can go into a deep sleep where your brain can ‘organise’ new information for you, so you remember it better when you need to. There are various aromatherapy products you can try, for example blended aromatherapy oil room sprays, and even delta wave sound tracks which many people find helpful when falling asleep. You can also use the Havening techniques mentioned above, as it is fantastic to help you relax and get that amazing rejuvenating sleep you need.

7. Leave the mobile phone behind whenever you can. Let your brain relax and forget about the phone every now and then. Enjoy the peace and just do whatever you fancy, without being on call 24/7. You will be a changed person when you go offline for a while.

8. Have an accountability buddy. Set your goal and share it with a close friend who is on this journey with you. Guess what this means? You’ve just signed up for peer pressure - which has been shown to help with keeping us on track. It also makes studying more fun and less lonely. When you are enjoying what you are doing, you become more motivated to do it. Great result!

Remember, it’s not the end of the world - we have all been there. Yes, exams are important, but once you get through a lot of them, you will look back and see how much more there is to life than worrying about it too much.

Attend your classes, do some planning, study throughout the year rather than last minute, look after yourself, don't skimp on sleeping, forget about junk food and calm your nerves by Havening and picture yourself succeeding. You will be fine.

If you feel worried or feel you can't cope, get in touch with us. We help many people like yourself combat stress every day. Call us on 079 00 66 55 22 or send us a message