Exams can test our stress levels – watch out for the signs

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It’s A-level exam time and GCSEs are looming, all creating potential stresses and strains on mental health and prompting a call from NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to keep an eye out for the signs.

The CCG is supporting this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May) campaign which focuses on stress, and with exams potentially creating stresses, the CCG is pointing to some top tips to manage exams as best as possible.

All of the tips below can be found in more detail here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/coping-with-exam-stress/

-       Eat well

-       Get enough sleep

-       Parents should be flexible around exam time and not add to pressures

-       Talk about any exam nerves

-       Do exercise

-       Make time for treats

Children and young people who experience stress may:

-       worry a lot

-       feel tense

-       get lots of headaches and stomach pains

-       not sleep well

-       be irritable

-       lose interest in food or eat more than normal

-       not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed

-       seem negative and low in their mood

-       seem hopeless about the future

Experts warn that anyone can experience stress and is part of everyday life, but letting stress build up can cause all manner of problems including anxiety and depression.

A recent study has revealed that 85% of UK GPs reported a rise in the number of patients with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in the last five years. 58% of UK adults who experienced stress, anxiety or depression for over one week did not visit their GP, and 21% waited six months before seeking help*.

Stress itself is not a medical diagnosis, but severe stress that continues for a long time may lead to a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, or more severe mental health problems.

Dr Nick Harding, Chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:

“Stress is a normal part of everyday life. However, if we don’t release stress, it can turn into something more serious, such as mental health problems. Mental Health Awareness Week is an ideal opportunity for us all to take action and look at ways of beating stress.

“Being aware that you suffer from stress related symptoms is the first step to dealing with it. Spotting the early signs of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and stop you adopting unhealthy coping methods such as drinking or smoking. There are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively such as learning how to relax, taking regular exercise and adopting good time-management techniques.

“Young people face a lot of pressure around exam time and it really does help to talk. It can seem scary to talk about stress or anxiety. You might feel like nobody else is feeling this way, but bottling up stress and trying to deal with it on your own can often make the stress worse. Childline has some excellent advice and support available at http://bit.ly/2rePwBr and NHS Choices provides top tips to beat exam stress at http://bit.ly/2FB0iGi

Here are 10 simple stress busters that anyone can try:

  • Be active – exercise helps you deal with your problems more calmly
  • Take control – it’s crucial to finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else
  • Connect with people – a problem shared is a problem halved
  • Have some “me” time – set aside a couple of nights a week to leave work at a reasonable hour and do something you enjoy (the UK works the longest hours in Europe)
  • Challenge yourself – do something new such as learning a language or a new sport
  • Avoid unhealthy habits – don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as ways of coping
  • Do volunteer work – helping people who are worse off than you will put your problems in perspective
  • Work smarter, not harder – concentrate on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work
  • Be positive – be glass half full instead of glass half empty
  • Accept the things you can’t change – and concentrate on everything you have control over.