There are loads of ways to define ‘stress’. One of the easiest ways to think about it is interms of biology. A short-term stress makes your pulse race and your breathing quicken; this is an evolutionary response to danger. Think of it as your body getting ready to escape a predator. (Of course, it doesn’t work so well for escaping exams.) The problem comes when you’re under this kind of stimulus continually. Your body gets oversensitive and it can make you ill. If you want suggestions about coping with stress in and about exams, have a look here. Otherwise…

Self Help

Everyone has bad days. If the problem is with your studies, some of these ideas might help. They’re intended to be quick and easy changes which will reduce the effect of triggers on you. If they’re not working, or you want something more specific, look at ‘Get Help’ lower down the page.

  • get organised – set a timetable with minimum and maximum times for assigned homework.
  • find or dedicate time to a hobby which gives you a total break from curriculum stuff.
  • regular exercise – not PE – can help with feelings of stress.
  • healthy eating will make you feel better generally and better able to cope with bad days.
  • cutting down on caffeine and relaxing before bed will improve your chances of a good night’s sleep.
  • talk to a trusted friend or family member about what’s bothering you.
  • keep a diary of how you’re feeling to help identify specific factors that bother you.

Finally, remember that everyone has subjects or areas that they find difficult. Nobody is born able to speak fluent French, or knowing all the important dates of the second world war. Teenagers in particular hate to let on that they’re struggling, so if a lesson is difficult but everyone else seems okay, maybe they’re just better at hiding it than you think.

Get Help

There’s loads of good places to go for help if stress or anxiety are getting on top of you, no matter what the cause. You have two main choices; online or in person. In reality, it’s probably worth you looking at both options.

In the UK, of course, a good starting point will be the relevant page on NHS Direct. You could check out The Site’s page on Anxiety and Stress, and the charity Young Minds has a lot of great resources, including their page on Anxiety and Phobias. Many other charities and groups offer help and support, with phonelines and befriending schemes in place. This will be particularly important if you can be clear about what the problem is – perhaps you’re worried about a family member, or concerned about alcohol misuse. Whatever the issue is, there will be somewhere that can help.

It’s likely that somewhere in school there’s a poster with various helplines. If not, you may be able to speak to a school nurse or counsellor. A trusted teacher might be able to suggest a good person to speak to, but they can’t promise confidentiality. Your family doctor is worth speaking to, and you’re entitled to speak to them without your parents if you prefer. A friend or trusted family member might be able to help you make a good choice about services to involve, if it’s more than you can handle.

Things tend to get either better or worse over time. Which will happen probably depends on the choices you make.


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