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Brass on the Mind

By modefor, Oct 23 2019 05:36AM

by Ben Roberts

Knowing that someone is there to provide emotional support during exam season is beyond valuable.

Unfortunately, in the modern world, social restraints are commonplace. 95% of children aged 13-18 use social media. Riddled with pressures and expectations to meet, it can often be a cause of anxiety and depression.

With parents habitually using the different platforms, it would be condescending of me to identify the dangers of social media, as I’m sure all parents are aware of such risks and are proactive in warning their children about them, or at least I hope so.

Of course, I use social media. As an 18-year-old school leaver it is almost unavoidable which does beg the question; is experiencing anxiety from social media inevitable?

This is why the social restraints surrounding the younger generation, who ultimately are uneducated about social media, are harrowing. The pressures from school on top of this can often leave students feeling inconsequential. Maintaining their wellbeing is paramount. But, here are some reasons why it is so difficult to balance a positive mind with relentless studies:

- Fear

- Anxiety

- Stress

- School expectations

‘I can’t go in there, I’ve forgotten everything’.

Don’t get me wrong, it is normal to feel anxious and stressed when exam season comes around. As a GCSE student in 2017, and an A-level student in 2019, I am aware of the immense fear that is instilled in students across the country when the term, ‘exam’, is even mentioned.

The exam hall is a terrifying place. I am sure it has been that way for many years, even spanning back to when O-levels were introduced in the 1950s. Yet, the desire to succeed within the students of this generation can sometimes allow them to overcome the fear of the exam hall. But it can also break them.

It is often argued whether the stress of carrying the pressures of making your parents proud, getting a job and achieving your target grades are worth it for a single letter or number on a piece of paper. Dedicating so much of your time and effort to make the school look better so their intake of pupils will increase, and to ultimately increase their position on the league table of schools in your area. Teachers feel pressured too. A senior body monitors them so they achieve certain grades within their class. With no intention to transfer such stress over to their students, they do all they can to mask the fear of losing their job. But, sometimes it is impossible to prevent fear from spreading.

Because of this, students are left feeling helpless minutes before sitting their exam. Echoing down school corridors is the age-old phrase of, ‘I can’t go in there, I’ve forgotten everything’. This shouldn’t be the case.

The anxiety and fear of failure takes over all the knowledge of the subject the student possesses. Having experienced the stress of exams myself, and witnessed it amid my peers, more than ever, I feel the mental health of students needs to be monitored to try and prevent many students feeling this way. A correlation with positive mental health and high achieving students is evident and supported by a recent study by ‘The Guardian’, it is clear that a healthy mind ultimately gives a child a better chance of a stronger academic performance. In other words, controlling the pressures in life is beneficial for a student’s education. But how do we do that?

I am in no position to offer psychological advice. However, I do hope I can provide an insight into the life of a student during exams and hopefully help at least one student feel a little more confident when walking towards that exam hall with their pencil case in hand.

Tips for students

- Sleep. Staying up late revising is not productive. It is crucial to have at least 8 hours sleep throughout school, not just exam season. Peak performance capability is increased because of this, and ultimately you feel replenished.

- Manage your time. Never leave it until the night before. From experience, this causes more worry and you can never work to your full capability when you are rushing.

- Listen to your teachers. As students, as much as we may think teachers are there to give us a hard time and ruin our lives, it’s not the case. Their job is to help us, even though they do set a lot of homework! The positives of homework regarding self-initiative and time management are overshadowed by the nationwide ‘sigh’ when the work is set.

- It’s not the time spent on revision, it’s how effective the time is used. Ensure plenty of breaks; make revision productive and as fun as possible! It’s often easy to listen to the teacher’s proposed revision techniques and run with it. But I recommend experimenting with different methods; find what works for you.

- Relax. Try your hardest, and of course complete all work set by teachers. However, running yourself into the ground with complicated revision schedules and consuming a countless number of energy drinks is not healthy.

Do not be afraid to talk about feeling low or stressed. Support is there whenever you need it. Whether it is a friend, a teacher or even a family member, someone will listen to you. Do not suffer in silence.

I guess I was lucky in the sense that I have supportive parents who were able to identify when I was feeling the pressure from school. They were able to talk to me and help me overcome the stress which I was experiencing.

As a parent, do not be overwhelmed by a mass of post-it notes scattered across the bedroom and even in the downstairs loo during exam season.

This is the norm! In other words, resist from tidying!

Encouragement is welcome, but persistence can irritate.

Encouraging healthy eating is vital, but a few treats motivate.

Celebrations should commence once exams are over, they deserve it!

In no way do I want to patronise parents out there, but these are just a few signs to look out for regarding stress in students according to the NHS:

- Immense worry, regardless of the situation.

- Headaches and stomach pains.

- Loss of appetite.

- Becoming irritable.

A harrowing study by the NHS stated that as of 2018 39% of UK students suffer from at least one mental illness.

Parents and carers who are able to encourage their child to talk about their mental health are more likely to be a continuous support system for their child, meaning they will be less likely to isolate their feelings to the solitude of their bedroom. Knowing that someone is there to provide emotional support during exam season is beyond valuable.

Whether you are a parent, teacher or a student, school is tough! Believe me. However, controlling the pressures and learning how to deal with the intensity of school whilst not being afraid to talk about it, will leave you feeling equipped to take on the challenges you inevitably will face. You’ve got this!

Credit: Gov.uk – A levels and GCSEs
Credit: Gov.uk – A levels and GCSEs

Focussing on all things mental health in the brass band movement.