Keep pressure and anxiety at bay, writes S.AISHWARYAIt is examination time and many students may be getting goose pimples. Your friends may have memorised more than you and worse still, you are plagued by recurring bizarre nightmares. Relax! Examinations are to test your capability to learn rather than the ability to memorise. More than the academic preparation, learning to keep the pressure at bay is important. For, the best of performers can buckle under pressure and get stressed out.
Too much pressureAs in the case of Savitha (name changed), a Standard XII student, who found the pressure too much to cope up with. "She was a top performing kid at school till Standard XI but is now afflicted with suicidal tendency," says R. Kumar, Department Head of Psychiatry, K.A.P.Viswanatham Government Medical College Hospital, who is treating her trauma.As the demand from her parents and school amplified, her anxiety to live up to the expectations of her peers, parents and schools hit a peak and clouded her ability to reason. "As a result, the school topper attempted suicide twice," says Dr. Kumar. "She turned jittery even on a mention of the word exam. And it took us almost a month to soothe her nerves and make her comfortable reading books," he says.
StressfulSavitha's case is not isolated. City psychiatrists say on an average three to five students come to them with exam-related stress every year. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. "These cases could be of individual physical disposition or genetic in a few cases. Parents take notice only when their children blatantly refuse to attend examination and panic," he says. Long hours of preparation and revising apart, experts suggest that both students and parents should make allowance for fun and relaxation. Exam-phobias are triggered by parents' unintentional blackjack in the name of encouragement. Their anxiety hampers the kids' ability to focus and often the children go blank at the examination. "Parents must realise there is life beyond examinations. Anxiety is contagious. Parents' apprehensions might get on to the kids and leave them exhausted studying." Academics too concur. Schools must counsel parents to make them aware of the options available after Standards X and XII, says the Correspondent of Sivananda Balalaya, K. G. Meenakshi. Examinations should be just a test of endurance and grit, she feels. Class X students are too young to tackle the pressure. "These students are too immature to face failures. It affects their self-esteem as they are sensitive," she says. Doctors stress on individual attention for each children. Segregating slow learners at schools would prove disastrous, they warn. Months of efforts will lead to nought, when students are overburdened and asked to attend endless special classes after school hours. "They suffer emotional trauma when there is an obvious categorisation," says P. Indrani, Principal (Academics) of Kamala Niketan Montessori Secondary School, which conducts refresher classes for all students of Standard IX and X. Suicidal tendency among students is the fallout of one-shot terminal examination pattern, says V. Sujatha, a city-based psychiatrist. "The D-day makes students so apprehensive that their thinking process goes haywire. Exams are seen as end of the road," she says. While most schools concentrate on boosting the pass percentage, hardly few are equipped to tackle the exam trauma that haunts students. She suggests a system of continuous assessment on monthly or weekly basis, right from the primary standard, to instil a sense of commitment to learn regularly. Getting psyched-up to some extent will help students stay alert, but more often these pressures are external. Parents must understand the limitations of their kids and the student-teacher rapport must be cordial. "This shouldn't be done at the eleventh hour. Rather than chalk-and-talk curriculum, which has robbed the joy of learning from children, the teaching-learning process must be informal," she says. Stress owing to the examination syndrome will often be indiscernible and parents are hardly aware of this, psychiatrists say. The alarm bells must ring for parents when the child becomes restless, pre-occupied and turns isolated. Staying awake too long into the night and avoiding food are other warning signals. Spacing out the preparation, healthy food and outdoor play between study hours are some tips that docs give to stay focussed and come on top.