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Teacher's guide to managing exam stress

Posted by Karabo Kgophane on 26 November 2021 11:00 AM SAST
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Exam season is upon us, and with that comes stress, lots of it. Many teachers feel they are expected to perform miracles and get blamed when students don’t do as well as they or particularly their parents expected them to.

Acknowledging that this is a stressful time is the first step; learning how to manage and deal with the stress is the next. If you are an educator, here are some tips for dealing with exam stress.

Sleep
During this period, it is important that you get a good night’s sleep. Dealing with stressed teenagers might be a contributing factor to your increase in stress levels. Perhaps you are holding extra support sessions for your pupils. You need to be well-rested and have your mind fully focused and one of the ways that you can do this is by getting enough sleep. 

Diet
It is important that you get up and give your body energy with some breakfast, restoring your body’s glucose levels and giving it some fuel to start the day with is essential. A rumbling stomach, while you’re invigilating, is not good for anyone. 

Nutrition 
As tempting as the thought of grabbing a grab a takeaway might be, make sure that you eat a balanced diet during this period. Consider cooking on the weekend for the week ahead so that you can eat healthy, homecooked fast food.

Caffeine limit
Whilst coffee, energy drinks and alcohol may provide an instant boost, you’ll feel worse in the long run if you overindulge as they all affect sleep patterns. Try to stick to no more than three caffeinated drinks a day, increase your water intake and consider a fruit smoothie for a natural boost.

Exercise 
Try to factor some exercise into your day. A brisk walk, run or anything which gets you out of the house and gets you some fresh air, is all you need. It could also aid sleep.

Switch off 
It can’t all be work, work, work. Take a few minutes each day to do something completely different that forces you to concentrate on something other than exams; play a game, do some baking, have a non-exam related conversation with a friend or family member. This will help you keep distracted for a few moments.

Visualise your time after exams
Give yourself something to look forward to. Think about what life will be like after the exams. No more marking, dealing with stressed pupils, etc. Maybe you’ve got a holiday planned. Visualise yourself on the beach, sipping on a cold drink, reading a good book.

Be prepared
With your mind on exams, it can be easy to forget and overlook things both at home and work during this time. Make to-do lists and schedule appointments in the calendar on your phone if you can, to ensure you don’t miss anything. By ticking tasks off a list, it can help you feel a sense of achievement at the end of the day, thus boosting your mood.

Stop
If you feel the pressure mounting at home or school, take a few moments to stop what you’re doing, take yourself out of the situation, take some deep breaths and count to 10. This will help you clear your mind and hit a reset button. 

Get help and support 
If exam stress does get too much, speak to a friend or colleague or seek professional help. Find or talk to someone who can not only relate to you but one that can help you as well. 

Source: PK Education

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