Exams are here and with them comes stress. Here's how you can get the better of it and come out with flying colours.

It is that dreaded time of the year when you get to see pale panic-stricken students with dark circles under their eyes, their head buried in books. This is the time when stress-related problems among students are many. Exams are to be given their due importance, but they are not life or death situations. Dr. Ann McCraken, Chairperson, International Stress Management Association, explains why it is important to manage stress and keep your cool.

During student life, exams undoubtedly are the major cause of stress but there are other factors as well. Stress can also be an outcome of ill health. Dr. McCraken says that it is very important to keep both the body and mind ‘Exam Ready'. When mind is refreshed and body is fit, our concentration level will improve. Contrary to the common belief, stress is an outcome of ill health and not its cause. Stress in a child could very well be an outcome of poor physical, mental or emotional health.

According to Dr. McCraken, the reason that could probably be protecting Indian children from stress is a healthy diet. A right diet is absolutely essential for both — the mind and the body. A balanced diet should have proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. These micro-nutrients are essential for proper functioning of cells. The timing of meals is very important. Children should take small meals often, rather than one large meal, especially late in the evening.

In her opinion stress level among Indian children is high. The children are under constant pressure from their parents and teachers to score above average marks. Competition in India is so great that the pressure on students grows immense.

“Definitely, the education system in India must re-consider the format of exams and grading. The authorities must understand that the current system is putting a lot of pressure on children which they are incapable of handling. Counselling exists, but I feel it is not taken seriously. Not only students, but their parents should also be made aware of dealing with stress. They should have clear understanding about exam time management, importance of extra-curricular activities and also unconventional career options,” she said.Three major causes :

Me

Stress can come from our values, beliefs, life experiences.

Fear of comparisons

Great expectations out of self.

Aspirations for a better lifestyle.

You

Parents, teachers friends ... everyone wants a bit of us.

People around us always expect us to be better than our competitors

Others

Things that we feel are out of our control.

With the media reach expanding exponentially, you now have access to things that might disturb you.

Make learning less burdensome

Children need to start preparing for the exams as early as possible And this way they could make use of the last few months for practising.

Take regular breaks. This allows consolidating information and moving them into long term memory from the short term space.

Seeing is good. Use visuals. Science projects are demonstrated well on sites like YouTube.

Hearing helps too Use audio books; record and memorise, and keep listening to it.

Parents should also help children to eat well and sleep adequate hours. They should focus on giving their children a balanced diet.

Parents and teachers should know that a child's mind is extremely vulnerable. They should be dealt with love and compassion. A lot of mentoring and counselling is required to make sure that students are well prepared to handle exam stress.

Tips to tackle stress

Clear your mind. Take three deep abdominal breaths. Deep breaths help relax your mind.

Positive approach. Tell yourself that you can do it.

Regular sleep. You should ideally have six to eight hours of good sleep on an average.

Power naps. Especially during hot weather, taking a power nap of about 10 minutes will be a good break and also helps clear your mind.

Drink eight glasses of water a day. It is essential to re-balance the chemicals inside your body.

Parent and teachers should identify stress-related problems in children and give proper assistance.

Some symptoms

Change in behaviour — from being a bright and cheerful child to an indifferent person, from being outgoing to withdrawn.

Anxiety

Inability to concentrate

Memory lapses

Worry

Defensive nature

Irritable nature

Fearful

Weight loss/gain

Frequent cold and

infections

Sleeping disorders

Being accident prone