Stress according to Websters Dictionary is defined as (noun) a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. After a very long and emotional conversation with one of my top student’s parents about her recent test scores and her emotional state following receiving them (almost perfect scores by the way), I realized this is becoming a recurring theme throughout the year with students; particularly Junior and Senior year. Stress seems to reach its peak during mid-term and final exams when coupled with ACT/SAT testing; it can almost seem unbearable to a teenager (to the parents as well).
However, there is good news! Studies, as well as my own experience with students in my consulting practice show there are several ways to minimize stress and anxiety when it comes to testing; before, during and after. .
Coping & Stress Management
- Get plenty of sleep every night. According to the American Medical Association teenagers require 8-10 hours of sleep each night. As a mother of 3 believe me I know this is a difficult task with so much on their plate; homework, sports, social, etc. In contrast, by college you can’t wake them up!
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Diet is a HUGE part of how your teenager will deal with stress. Junk in – junk out. Healthy eating habits will assist the brain in functioning properly, provide better & deeper sleep and studies show will also provide a more balanced emotional state (teenagers sure need that).
- Try taking up Yoga, Meditation, Deep breathing or Daily Prayer. Dozens of studies at major medical institutions show that using daily relaxation techniques and being able to apply them leading up to & day of a stressful test, positively impacts the student both emotionally and yields better academic results.
- Do not cram! Start test prep early enough (for high school exams and college entrance testing) prior to testing that the results will reflect that effort. I recommend 2-3 months of weekly prep prior to ACT/SAT testing whichever method is chosen (group, 1-1, online, etc). I have student’s who insist they can prep themselves and wait until two weeks prior to ACT/SAT test to do an hour each day and in the majority of cases the scores are very disappointing. There are so many FREE tools now for prep online that all student’s have access. For mid-term and final exams, I recommend student’s start going back to notes/chapters from units that will be covered on the mid term or final and refreshing their memory, up to 3 weeks prior to tests. I have found best practice is for student to re teach information to a classmate or parent; reteach to retain. I find when students wait for or rely on a study guide or memory or cram for a mid term or final, the result is usually very disappointing.
- If stress becomes unmanageable or is affecting your student socially, seek professional help. There are therapists who specialize in stress management for students, and many who focus on performance anxiety in particular. I have had student’s (parents) seek help with excellent results and coping mechanisms that provided relief throughout college.
- Be prepared heading to the test center. I always tell my student’s “fail to prepare and you will prepare to fail” in all areas of your life. In other words, on test day have the proper tools; 2 pencils, correct calculator, your ID, your test day registration ticket, a snack and water bottle.
I hope that this has helped you. I have lived this student “stress” dilemma both as a parent (and continue to) and as a professional educational consultant.
Make it a great 2nd semester!!