We’ve all been there. Cramming till late in the night, having nightmares about missing a crucial exam and losing one’s appetite till the last paper is done and dusted. Pre-exam stress, however, has taken on new levels as learning has become much more competitive and result-oriented.

A lot of it stems from a lack of self-confidence on the part of the student, which in turn stems from the fact that most students start preparing at the last moment and take things for granted. For the others, there’s the constant neurotic worry about not being adequately prepared. On top of that, parents pressurize children to perform better that other kids, making it a prestige issue. Lastly, the educational system is flawed – students are assessed on the basis of their performance on that one day, as opposed to the whole year. A lot of variables (like the student falling sick the day before, for example) can come into play here, making it pretty unfair.

Here’s how I look at it – A student’s mind is like the desktop screen that has too many icons on it. When there are this many icons, it tends to hang. The trick is to ‘delete’ unwanted icons by meditating, doing yoga, or simply by doing things that make you happy and relaxed. This clears your mind and when it’s time for the exam, you only access the folders you need to.

Parents putting too much pressure on the child is the last thing he/she needs. According to me, slow learning is better than no learning – parents need to realise that retaining knowledge is not a process that can be rushed.

Then there’s social and peer pressure. Comparison with other kids is inevitable, but both parent and child must learn not to let it affect them. Alternatively, peer pressure to study / or not study if your friends are making fun of you is something that adds to stress.

So how do you deal with all of it? Simple, the answer is to relax, and there’s all sorts of different ways to do it. Walking meditation, a method founded by a Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is great, and I use it with patients on several occasions. Some yoga asanas also help in studying. For example, the Ardhapadmasana helps concentration, while the Savasana aids overall relaxation. Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT, is something I practise with students specially to relieve pre-exam stress. It works on the principle that every negative thought has an impact on the body, and it helps one ‘kick’ the stressful emotions out of your body. Hypnotherapy for behavioural modification is also something I do frequently and highly endorse – it really does help children and is not a drastic measure that parents think it is.

So I say this to all parents and children – keep an open channel of communication between each other and explore solutions to keep you from freaking out. That is the key.

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