Cork Professor and Wellness Author Offers Tips to Tackle Exam Stress

With the Leaving and Junior Cert exams approaching, it can be an extremely stressful time for students and their families. The last days before the start of exams can seem very long, the stress and worry can become overwhelming for some students.

However, in order to prepare and perform to the best of their abilities, it is important to manage these difficult feelings so that they can focus and perform to the best of their abilities. There are a number of things young people can do, with the support of their parents to help them.

The importance of routine

When our minds become stressed and negative thoughts overwhelm us, it can be hard to focus on anything, especially studying. Creating a planned day-to-day structure will give young people a sense of control over the situation they face and give them the psychological security to focus on the important tasks they need to accomplish.

That’s why it’s important to get up and go to bed at the same time every day.

It’s also crucial to schedule time to study, exercise, and time to relax, so that feelings of panic and overwhelming feelings don’t take over.

Our routines enliven us and help us overcome the unexpected challenges we face these days, because we know the rest of our day is clearly structured.

Alan White is a second grade teacher at Bishopstown Community School and wellbeing author.

Changing perceptions of stress

Stress is often viewed as negative and something we should reduce or even avoid if we can. However, the reality is that stress is inevitable in all of our lives.

Working towards major exams is going to be a stressful time for young people. it should be managed through regular sleep, exercise, and a relatively healthy diet, as well as taking time to relax in a healthy way.

The problem is that in scenarios like exams, stress cannot be completely eliminated.

The key to managing this is to change the way stress is perceived.

Seeing stress only as a negative thing reinforces this idea and makes us resist it, which only increases it.

We need some stress in our lives to get up in the morning and do the things we need to do every day. Stress also helps us overcome challenges. Viewing stress as a motivation to act, to revise, to exercise, to seek support when needed, will allow students to focus that energy on productive activities rather than unhelpful negative thought patterns.

Focus on what you can control

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to exams. Questions that might arise, your readiness are just some of the factors that have students worried. By focusing on the things that can’t be changed, stress increases and it can be difficult to focus on a last-minute review.

Changing the focus to what you can control will help change the way you view the challenge ahead and motivate you to continue preparing to the best of your abilities.

Set realistic goals

Many students try to cram as many revisions as possible into the last days and hours before exams. Others are overwhelmed by the amount of work they feel they have to do and disengage. In both of these scenarios, students can be counterproductive in their efforts and quickly become overwhelmed.

Taking the time to plan and set realistic review goals over the next few days will allow you to focus on what’s important and develop a sense of progress and motivation.

Taking control of our actions allows us to feel like we can cope with the stresses in our lives and a sense of productivity helps us keep working towards our goals.

The role of parents

Parenting an exam student is extremely difficult. There is often a feeling of helplessness as you watch your child go through the many emotions the Leaving Cert brings. It can be difficult to help and often when we do, our words of encouragement are heard as criticism and our good intentions backfire, causing an argument.

For parents, the best way to support their child is to be available when needed, calmly discuss challenges, and help your child see things more realistically or positively when overwhelmed by stress. .

It’s important that they have a quiet space to prepare and a safe place where they can fume and allow themselves to express any difficult thoughts and feelings they might be having without feeling judged.

Hard work but one that will show you care and support them.

The Class of 2022 have shown tremendous resilience over the past few years and have adapted to circumstances at schools that can only be described as unnatural. They have shown in this year how quickly they can return to normal education routines.

It is important for them to remember this when exams begin and use their innate inner strength to overcome the challenge ahead.


Alan White is a secondary school teacher at Bishopstown Community School and a wellness author. He also leads wellness workshops for businesses and organizations.

Find Alan on LinkedIn at Alan White or Facebook Changes Wellbeing

Lola R. McClure