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Stress and Academic Performance

Hello Everyone

It's been a busy time for us here at Edu-Profile. As we approach the year-end exam period there is a definite increase in interest in our "Exam Stress" programme. There's no doubt about it: exam time = stress time for learners and parents alike. It's likely that you (or your youngster) have found yourself in the grip of exam stress at some point. It's that mixture of fear and anxiety when you:

  • Go "blank" and cannot recall information you know well

  • Lose your usual creativity

  • Misread questions

  • Interpret questions incorrectly

  • Become upset by the paper or a question in the paper

  • Work too fast or too slowly

  • Make careless mistakes

  • Panic, resulting in an increased heartbeat, sweating or shivering

"Why does this happen to me - I've worked so hard!" this is a question that we're often asked. Perhaps an explanation of the origins of stress can help answer this question. Our bodies and brains are programmed to respond to dangerous situations by either fighting or running away. Think back to our pre-historic ancestors who had to outwit wild animals to stay alive. If you were being chased by a sabre tooth tiger, there was not much time to think about what to do; that's where our "fight or flight" response helped. This programming has lasted to this day and nowadays, whenever we are in a situation that we cannot control, we become anxious or worried, a feeling which we call "stress". We all need a certain amount of stress motivate us to action. After all, if there are no consequences for an action (whether positive or negative), why would we worry about performing or not performing that action? Positive stress gives you the energy to throw yourself into something where you want to make a contribution. Approaching exams should enhance a student's concentration and learning capability. So while a certain amount of stress is good, because it gets you alert and performing, it's when the stress becomes extreme that problems start to occur. There is a clear relationship between the demands made on us and our performance, which can be illustrated as follows:

It's the night of the school play. You're in the dressing room. The director is pumping the cast up.

"Now, I know you people are nervous. That's okay, in fact, that's what we want. You're going to perform better on stage if you're a little nervous"

The point of ‘healthy tension' is the point where performance is at its peak, where the person has been "pumped up" enough to get them going. Further demands, however, will result in a decrease, rather than an increase in performance. Continued stress over a long period of time can also result in unpleasant consequences, ranging from being too tired to burn out. This is why it is important for parents and learners to have an effective strategy in place to manage exam stress.

Those of you who are familiar with our work know that there are different Brain Profiles, each one has its own unique challenges and talents associated with school work. Each Profile responds differently to stress. The resilience and determination that we have been taught by parents, teachers and life also impact the level of stress we experience. For example, someone who has been taught to take problems in their stride is less likely to have high stress levels.

As the graph above shows, when stress starts to build the functioning of our brains is affected. The duration and intensity of stress will determine how much of one's functioning is affected. The longer we are stressed, the more it affects us. Through a Genetic Brain Organisation Profile assessment our consultants are able to explain your individual stress triggers and teach you techniques to successfully manage stress.

Regardless of one's Brain Profile, good study methods and learning habits will definitely help reduce the exam jitters. Correct preparation is critical. Remember: Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail! We've put together a "cheat sheet" to help parents and learners through exam time. Click here to download it now.

Conclusion: Examinations are stressful situations, but understanding your unique brain profile, having the right attitude and knowing the best way to prepare for them, can make them less daunting and increase your quality of life as a learner.

Until next time,

Annette & Team

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