The CBSE Board Examinations are less than a month away. As the students get ready to face the final examinations, we endeavour to tackle the problem of stress in school going kids. At the onset, let us assure you the Stress is a very real thing. Studies have proven that students writing examination undergo acute psychological pressure. While some have the anxiety to perform well, many are worried about attaining passing grades. So acute is the intensity that the psychological stress translates into physical symptoms like headache, body ache and even fever. Anxiety in students is known to cause severe symptoms of clinical depress. As such, here is a guide for parents about Stress in students and how to deal with it.

Let us begin with defining stress. While many parents would relate to stress as a fad, the fact is that Stress is a biological reaction to a stimulus that tends to disrupt the body’s mental and or physical equilibrium.  In fact, stress is very normal and regular occurrence. What, we are, however referring to is acute stress. As the adage goes, too much of anything is bad, acute stress can be extremely disruptive. More so when it is at a young adolescent age of children writing Class 12 examinations. While parents pay extra attention to their wards preparation, we also urge them to keep an eye out for symptoms of acute stress in students.

Identifying acute stress can be tricky but not very difficult to the watchful eye of a parent. The symptoms of stress could be mood swings, irritability, irritable bowel, pains in neck, head or shoulder. There might be episodes where in your child avoids all contact, does not show any interest in things he/she normally find interesting. Physical sluggishness, sleepiness and fever could be other signs and symptoms. Please remember that acute stress could lead to severe reactions and clinical depression which can in turn have catastrophic results. Students have reported going ‘blank’ just before the paper and breaking in a nervous sweat. Others have been known to faint under the pressure. Related Link | CBSE to start counseling for students from February 9

The problem is intense and every year the education boards and child care services initiate Student Helpline to tackle the problem. CBSE too has a dedicated helpline number to help counsel students. However, best care starts from home and we give you small things parents can do to ensure a better management of stress in students.

  • Ensure a balanced and nutritious diet – It cannot be said enough how a diet can affect a person’s physiological and psychological well being. A healthy and nutritious balanced diet would ensure that the child’s body is healthy to handle the stress arising from examination.
  • Keep your child hydrated – ensure your child is drinking enough water. Examination could mean long hours in front of the books and erratic eating habits. As such, inculcate the child to drink water. Best way to do that is to keep a bottle of water at the study desk for easy access. When it is easily available, students tend to consume them. At the same time, avoid caffeinated drinks. Coffee tends to dehydrate the body and tires the brain by keeping it alert beyond the normal capacity. Milder drinks like water, lemonade and even green tea are better substitutes than coffee.
  • Small snacking is okay – Snacking while studying, in fact, has known to provide extensive relief from acute stress in students. This can, however, lead to problematic symptoms. We suggest smaller snacks, modified quantities and healthy alternatives. Best are nuts like almonds and walnuts. Almonds would keep the stomach full and provide with essential roughage. Remember, peeling the almond is no good. Almonds with skins are better…especially during examinations.
  • Encourage the child to take breaks for meals and basic entertainment. As important as it is to follow a strict time table for studies, it is equally necessary to plan the breaks. Small breaks are almost essential for the child. If these breaks can be filled with light physical activity like taking a small walk in the vicinity or playing some games, it can help the child with increased concentration. Meals should be definite time to break away from studies.
  • Ensure 6-8 hours of sleep. Child especially needs these hours of sleep to rest the brain and body. Early to bed and early to rise is a better strategy and tends to help the mind become sharper and more alert. Studies suggest that a child is able to retain better if preparation was done in the early hours of the morning as against the late hours of night. Encourage students to sleep on time and get up earlier to revise.
  • Provide family time without the talk of examinations. Though it might seem very difficult but parents should make a genuine effort to not over do talking about the upcoming examinations. For instance, meal times with family should be fun and relaxing. Talk about food, events of the day or general gossip. Providing a normal atmosphere at the dinner table would help the child accept examination as a normal event and not stress too much about it.
  • Relax! This is the most important things parents should learn to do. Stressing starts with parents more than with students. The more the parents sweat over the performance of their child, the more the child is susceptible to acute stress. Hence, the most important things parents can and should do to manage stress in their children is to start with managing stress in their own system. Yoga and small walks help, a healthy diet, happy banter and a fun activity all would help the parents to worry less about their child’s examinations. Also Read | Exam Stress, this 3 minute video says it all, a must watch for parents

Being supportive is crucial but remember, being there and being a constant nag are two very different things. So, if you really want to help your child…let them be. As a young mind, they have the capacity to overcome failures and handle stress far better than an ageing mind and body of a parent. What the young minds, however, cannot handle is a parent constantly worried about their success. So, help your child by helping yourself. All the best!