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Fight or Flight (Exam Stress)

Fight or Flight (Exam Stress)

February 19, 2021

 I got a call yesterday from an anxious sounding parent saying, “ Tomorrow is my son’s twelfth pre- board exam but he doesn’t want to go to school. He says he can’t remember anything. He is holding his head. He looks tensed and restless. He is feeling feverish. What do I do?”

We are getting to hear many such incidents when exams are round the corner. All of us know that students had only online classes through out the year but they are having offline exams. In fact, practical exams are also conducted without any practice sessions.

With, exams round the corner, it is fight or flight mode for many students this year due to the pandemic.  Stress is normal part of everyone’s life.  Stress as we all know is the body’s response to the challenging situation that one faces. The response could be in fight or flight mode. The fight-or- flight response refers to a physiological reaction that occurs when we are in the presence of something that is mentally or physically terrifying which may lead one to fight or flee.

Stress is quite natural during exams. At one point or the other everyone is in a flight mode during exams. Two weeks back, I was in the same situation just before my exams. Even at my age and maturity, I was in a flight mode due to the stress as I had so much to revise and time available was too short. I thought of giving up on my exams.   That feeling was for just a short while. After self pep talk and self motivation, I attended the exams. I have done my exams quite satisfactorily. Now, I am awaiting my results.

I have come across many students recently, who are missing their exams due to the stress. As I am writing this, I just came across a news in today’s newspaper about an engineering student having committed suicide by jumping from the college building here in Bangalore due to the exam pressure. The real reason is yet to be investigated. However, the news is very disheartening. The parents have lost a loving son and our country has lost a talented, young and dynamic engineer.

Parents are not equipped to deal with the consequences of the pandemic on education.  They had to deal with their children at home the whole year. Help them with: their online classes, the notes, the homework assignments, revisions, class tests, online and offline exams.  After all this, when the child is under stress and refuses to attend exams or takes the extreme step, one can imagine the plight of the parents. I had my share of experience in this regard as a parent. With my experience as a parent and also my professional knowledge and experience as a psychology counselor, sharing few tips for parents and students to face the situation.

What can the parents do?

  • If your child is refusing to study just before exams or mentions of skipping exams, do not panic or be judgmental. Be empathetic.. Your child may just require a positive pep talk and motivation to overcome the stress. Be with your child. If you have patience and time, help with the revision, you may read out the key points. Whatever preparation had to be done is already done. It’s just last minute revision that the student  would be doing. So, don’t push too hard at this juncture. This kind of forcing upon the child may lead to serious consequences which may not be retrievable later.
  • The general attitude of parents is, they try comparing themselves with their children, the hardships they as students had to go through and how they overcame everything all alone in spite of the hardships. (Parents must understand that their times were different from the They didn’t have a pandemic to deal with or social media pressure or awareness beyond their age, technology related issues like mobile addiction, internet addiction etc).
  • Accept that there is an issue. Once you accept that there is an issue, now you can look at solutions.
  • First and foremost, calm the child. Do not push your child to study or argue as to why he/she doesn’t want to go for exams. Give some time for the child to relax. There are many relaxation techniques available on the internet.
  • Once the child is relaxed, have a healthy conversation and ascertain the reasons for such decision. If as a parent, you are not able to handle it all alone, take the help of the class teacher/teachers/trust worthy friends.
  • Teachers have a positive influence on the students. Having the teacher talk to the students enhances the self-esteem and confidence of the students.
  • After the efforts, if the child is confident enough to take the exams, it’s good or else look for alternatives.
  • Alternatives could be in the form of re-test, if it’s not board exam or any other solution that the parent/school deems fit.
  • After the exams are over, give some time for the child to come to terms with the situation. The child himself/herself is introspecting, it is his/her life after all.
  • Parents can now do the introspection and retrospection. Definitely, there is a trigger for the stress of such magnitude. Parents need to identify the trigger/triggers.
  • Every child is different. Parents need to help their child identify the strategies that work for him/her. Online classes have not been as effective as the offline classes. Not all are confident to deal with the present form of study and the exams that have followed.
  • When self-help fails, it’s advisable to take the help of a professional counselors. They educate you on the issue and how to go about it, and help your child to: identify the problem areas, set goals, manage time, give homework assignments to work towards their goal and more. Sometimes there may be serious underlying issues which a professional counselor can identify and do further referrals.

What can the students do?

 During Exams:

  • If you(student) student face such stressful situation during exams, it’s important to talk about your concerns to your parents or siblings or anyone whom you trust. Mere talking of the problem may bring down your stress to a large extent or the person to whom you talk, may bring a different perspective to the issue at hand.
  • You have to understand that stress is normal during exams and devise strategies to overcome the stress.
  • Strategies could be in the form of relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, exercise, taking short breaks during studies, drinking enough water, eating healthy and sleeping for sufficient hours.
  • Practice various memory techniques and study techniques which is helpful in easy retrieval of information from your memory.
  • Never give up very At the most you may get less marks. So, do not miss the exams, do give a try always. Things are not as difficult as you imagine.
  • Everyone has some stress when it comes to exam. One feels blank and tend to forget everything but you must always remember that the year long hard work is not easy to erase. It’s all there in your memory and as you attempt your paper in the exam, you will be able to retrieve the answers one after the other.
  • Even after trying hard, if one cannot face the exams, it’s never the end of the world, there is always a next time. Your health is most important. Communicate to your parents and teachers of your real concerns and take their

Before Exams

  • In our country, exams are very important and the results of the exams is the sole deciding factor of your future endeavours.
  • If you have to get good results, it is very important to set your goals in the beginning of the academic year and work towards it.
  • The syllabus is well paced for the year, and with proper planning and time management, you can achieve the goal that you have set for yourself.
  • Where ever you find difficulty, communicate your concerns to your parents and teachers. If any study related guidance is required opt for tuition. There are free tutorials available on the internet.
  • Peer pressure, social media pressure, mobile addiction, internet addiction, game addiction are some of the evils that today’s students are facing. Be wise and exercise thorough judgment, it’s your life after all.
  • Have a healthy lifestyle throughout the Eat healthy, exercise regularly, drink enough water, early to bed and early to rise really helps, help your parents at home and siblings in their studies, involve in some social work during free time which builds your confidence.
  • Talk to a professional counselor, if self-help fails. They have tailor made strategies to help you.

Exams have always been stressful and specially, these times have been really hard for everyone.. Pandemic and the consequences due it have added to the woes of the students. Definitely, a real concern that our student community is facing. Parents, teachers, school management, educational department, etc have to be sensitive to them and hold their hands when they are in distress. Without being judgmental, each one of them has to help them overcome their concerns and support them fight the stress/any other concerns related to exams or else they may opt for flee or flight option.


1 Comment
  1. Shreyansh
    March 11, 2021

    This is one of the best blog about Exam stress..


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