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FIGHT THE FRIGHT

Stress can be defined as an internal state of the body or in other words a natural physical and mental response to a challenging or threatening situation. In the presence of stress, our body prepares itself to deal with a perceived danger or stressor. Stress can affect our body in various ways and cause several physical and psychological symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, digestive problems, increase blood pressure, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Stress occurs because of the presence of a stressor. A stressor can be any event, situation, or circumstance that triggers a stress response in the body. There is a wide range of stressors and which can be acute or chronic and can come from external or internal sources. Stressors can be different for each person and it is to be remembered that what may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another.

Examination time can be a stressful period for students and their parents or carers where the exam is the stressor and it is normal to experience some level of anxiety during this period. Acertain amount of stress is considered to be beneficial because it helps the student in getting himself or herself to prepare for the exams.

Exam phobia (fear) is an excessive and irrational fear of exams and is not to be taken lightly. Many students experience exam phobia throughout their academic career and during the exam period these students may experience an increased level of anxiety, insomnia, irritability, disturbed sleep patterns, decrease in appetite, poor concentration, forgetting, and inability to learn.

Many students can overcome the fear of exams somehow by themselves but those who are unable to cope require a lot of guidance, positive reinforcement, and emotional support.

If left unmanaged, exam stress can negatively impact a student's academic performance, mental and physical health, and overall well-being. Fortunately, there are several effective treatment methods available to manage and reduce exam stress. Let’s see how to push panic away!

COGNITIVE-BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)
CBT is a form of psychological treatment that is effective for a range of problems. In CBT, students learn to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their stress levels. They also learn relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, and time-management strategies to help them better manage their stress levels during exams.

MINDFULNESS-BASED STRESS REDUCTION (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy and is being used for treating a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, etc. MBSR is effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Students who practice MBSR learn to focus on the present moment, without judgment or distraction and to develop a greater awareness of their thoughts and emotions. This can help them stay calm and focused during exams and reduce their overall stress levels.

EXERCISE
Regular exercise is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety in students. Exercise can help to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, improve mood, and promote relaxation. Students can incorporate exercise into their daily routine by walking, cycling, or engaging in other physical activities that they enjoy.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Various relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization, can help to reduce stress and anxiety in students. These techniques can be learned and practised easily and can be used to calm the mind and body during exam periods.

SOCIAL SUPPORT
Having a strong social support network can be beneficial in managing exam stress. Students can seek support from friends, family, teachers, or counsellors. Talking to someone about their worries and concerns can help to alleviate anxiety and provide a sense of relief.

MEDICATION
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage severe anxiety or panic attacks during exam periods. However, medication should only be used under the guidance and supervision of a healthcare professional. These therapies and strategies can help students effectively reduce their stress levels, improve their academic performance, and promote their overall well-being.

To those overwhelmed by examination blues, say goodbye to palpitations and tremors. To headaches and sleeplessness. Take a deep breath, focus on your goals and do your best. Optimism strengthens opportunities and potential. No exam is final or fatal. Smile, breathe, believe and give it your best shot.

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