Term three can signal “panic stations” in many households. For year 11 students, it’s a time of assessments, assignments and the countdown to starting their final year of school. For those in year 12, it is their last term at school: their final exams are just around the corner, the results setting their path to the untried worlds of university and work, and they can feel stressed both about study, and what the future may hold. The rest of the family may feel like their whole lifestyle is revolving around one angry, stressed out individual whose mood varies from studious and efficient, through childlike and tearful, to angry and erratic — all within the course of one day. Maintaining perspective and keeping things on an even keel over the next couple of months is important for everyone. The top “balancing act” tips from KYDS are:
- Set yourself a regular routine. Drawing up a timetable that allows adequate time for sleep, school work and study blocks, plus gives you some leisure time with friends and family and some regular exercise is a good idea and helps you feel in control of the situation. Think about ways you can be time-efficient and double up activities — for example, a half-hour walk with Mum before breakfast each morning gives you important fresh air and exercise, plus time with a family member who can help your sense of perspective.
- Eat well. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, adequate protein and complex carbohydrates will provide the energy you need and boost your immune system (no one wants to be ill during exam season!). Avoid caffeine overload, fad weight-loss diets, and steer clear of alcohol and other drugs that may impair your thinking processes.
- Get some exercise, every day. Daily exercise helps clear your head, builds stamina and releases tension. Make your choice of exercise fun and easy to accomplish, without a huge time imposition. An hour of hit-and-miss tennis at a local court with a couple of mates, a close-to-home yoga or exercise class, walking the family dog, or a few laps in the back-yard pool before dinner each evening are all good alternatives.
- Adequate sleep is vital. Get your body into a regular pattern of waking up and settling down each evening. Turn off all electronic devices (computers, phones, i-pads, etc) an hour or so before your scheduled bed-time, and “unwind” before hitting the sack: try reading a book, browsing through some magazines, soaking in the tub, or simply gazing at the stars or watching the embers die down in the fireplace.
- Break your workload into bite-size chunks. You can only complete one task at a time, so make a checklist of the tasks you have to achieve, break them into manageable portions, and tackle them one-by-one. It is surprising how good you can feel each time you move something from “to do” to “done!” status.
- Don’t ignore signs of stress. If you, or one of your friends, feel overwhelmed, can’t sleep, are bursting into tears all the time, constantly angry with everyone and everything… talk to someone. Let your parents, year adviser, school counsellor, chaplain or other trusted person know what’s happening, and ask for their help.
KYDS provides easily-accessed, confidential counselling & mental health support services for teens. Ph 9416 0900 www.kyds.org.au
KYDS is a registered charity, supported by the community. All donations are 100% tax-deductible.
- Finally, remember there is life after the HSC, regardless of final results. For some, the results may be an instant passport to a desired course or career, for others time to consider alternative pathways into particular study streams, or an opportunity to re-assess career options according to areas of personal strength, rather than according to parental wishes. But whatever the result, you will have achieved a lot by completing thirteen years of schooling, making it through the assessments and exams, and through your adolescence as a whole and healthy person. Keep it in perspective: the exams are just one more set of tests, they are not a measure of who you are.
If you require additional assistance managing school & exam stress, speak to your school year adviser or counsellor, contact an organisation such as HeadSpace or KYDS, or check out some of the great (and amusing) resources available from www.reachout.com