Exams looming? Just relax! Kathy Stephenson
The lead up to examinations can be an overwhelming and stressful time and the thought of making time for relaxation may be the last thing on your mind. However, it is during this time that using relaxation techniques can have a significant impact upon your levels of achievement.
Learning to relax both physically and mentally is key to maximising your true potential. There are numerous benefits to be gained by taking the time out of your busy schedule to practise relaxation techniques. These benefits include increased ability to cope with stress, reduced worry and anxiety, improved memory and ability to concentrate, enhanced performance and efficiency and reduction in self-critical negative thoughts.
Many young people find the revision period extremely stressful. A cycle of stress, anxiety and procrastination can develop. As a lecturer, hypnotherapist and mother of exam aged children, every day during the exam season I see many anxious students in a state of panic. There are several books on examination tips which are good for revision planning, but what I have found really helps students to stay calm and focused is taking a little time out to experience the wonderful benefits of self- hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is a safe and highly effective way to help reduce stress to build confidence and enhance learning. With this in mind, I have produced a self-hypnosis audio CD specifically for students to listen to help them to relax, revise and remember.
Sarah was a bright, motivated and hardworking student. She was taking four A levels and hoping to achieve the high grades she required to secure her place at medical school. Everything was going well until after the Easter break. Sarah became increasing concerned by self limiting thoughts that she might not get the grades she needed. She began to doubt her ability and her self-confidence plummeted. As the weeks past Sarah became more anxious and less able to concentrate on her revision. She found it difficult to sleep, was tearful, uncharacteristically bad tempered and generally unable to focus upon her work. Her Mother contacted me in a state of despair. She knew Sarah had the ability to do well and she tried to be supportive, but was herself becoming increasing anxious at Sara’s high levels of stress.
It is natural to feel some degree of anxiety whilst preparing for and doing examinations but getting excessively nervous is counterproductive, as you will not be able to think as clearly. If you feel stressed and frightened the thinking part of your brain can shut down and your mind can go blank. If you spend your time worrying that you will not do well, this in itself, can cause much stress and lead to you not performing at your best on the day of the exam. Watch out for negative thinking, e.g. "everyone else seems well organised and able to cope, while I'm struggling", and challenge this, e.g. "I have succeeded in exams in the past".
Sarah only had one week left before her first examination when she came along to see me. So we only had time for one session. We spend the time working on her negative though patterns and limiting beliefs and general stress management. I gave Sarah a copy of my self-hypnosis audio revision CD to listen to each day leading up to the examination. This helped her to remain calm, gain a sense of perspective and feel more confident in her ability.
Sarah’s Mother rang me on the day of her first examination. “I would like to thank you for all the help you have given Sarah. It’s as if a weight has been lifted from her mind and her concentration increased dramatically. In fact the whole change in Sarah has been remarkable. She was back to her normally happy self, sleeping well and not half as worried has she has been. I have dropped her off at school today and she was definitely calmer and seemed quite confident”
Sarah was able to stay calm and focused during the examinations. She received the grades is needed and is now studying medicine and still using self-hypnosis as a study aid.
Learning to experience the benefit of deep relaxation will help on a number of different levels. On a physical level relaxation activates the parasympathetic part of your nervous system. This in turn counteracts the effects of the stress response by reducing the level of arousal in the body. On a mental level deep relaxation allows you to gain a sense perspective and puts some distance between yourselves and your problems. Feeling overwhelmed is a classic sign of stress and slowing down our thought process can help you to concentrate on one task at a time and cope with increasing demands. You will be able to work much more efficiently and have sharper clarity and concentration if you allow yourself time to experience inner-focus and to switch off and relax on a daily basis.
Kathy Stephenson is a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and the Course Leader of BA (Hons) in Education Studies with Psychology and Counselling . Kathy is an Advanced Cognitive Hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner and divides her time between lecturing and running Innerchange Personal Development programmes. Kathy developed and ran the University's Certificate of Higher Education in Hypnotherapy for four years and has now transfered her hypnotherapy training skills into a range of personal development courses including self-hypnosis and NLP weekend workshops.
The Innerchange self- hypnosis CD -Relax, Revise Remember- has been developed using a combination of positive suggestions and creative visualisation and draws upon Kathy’s experience as both a hypnotherapist and educationalist. You can obtain this from Amazon and general book stores or from the online shop HYPERLINK "http://www.innerchange.co.uk/" www.innerchange.co.uk at a special discount of £5 off with promo code SH250.