Can you believe (for those of you that are a similar age bracket to me) that GCSEs have been going for 31 years! I remember them as if it were yesterday – but I don’t remember quite as much pressure or stress as young people report today.
So what’s different? How can we help young people through their GCSEs, A-levels and degree courses, to be less anxious?
Well – as reported in the Guardian this time last year, it seems that Michael Gove believed the system needed a re-boot. Less coursework and more exams to make them “more demanding, more fulfilling, and more stretching…so that we can give our young people the broad, deep and balanced education which will equip them to win in the global race.”
“GCSEs have been a horrible experience,” says one 16-year-old. “I have suffered from panic attacks and a high increase in anxiety. It’s quite scary how as a student I find it normal to see my peers break down in lessons as they are scared of what’s going to happen to them in the future if they fail.”
Another writes: “I have seen the mentally toughest people crack and it’s painful to watch. People crying over being unable to do a maths question. Is this what we want as a nation, to be put under this mental stress?”
A-levels weren’t much different though, with YouTube video blogger Jade Bowler sobbing to her 190,000 followers after taking a 42-page paper.
I’ve been really lucky recently to work with students at some Universities around the country. I had a really amazing email from one student after I spoke to a group of them about how to engage with their inner happiness. Here’s her experience and how she has now found ways to fire up her happiness barometer – even in times of great stress. She wanted to pass on her thoughts to others – I think much of her advice works well with all young people undergoing the pressure of academic exams. What do you think?
In my third year, I used to worry about the future and what was next for me. It seemed as though everyone around me had an amazing plan for once they graduated, like a fab grad scheme or travel plans. It’s easier said than done, but I would say, try not to compare yourself to others. What is meant for you won’t pass you by!
If you go through a stressful period at uni, make sure to allow yourself down time to enjoy being with friends or watch that TV show you’ve wanted to watch on catch up for ages! It’s important to learn to switch off.
One thing that used to stress me out was eating, sleeping and working all in the same room! It’s good to separate your work place and relax place and if your room is both of these places, it can be hard to switch off.
During stressful work periods, I would often go on walks. It’s great to get fresh air and feel like you’ve done something with your day other than work!
I used to attend meditation sessions through my uni society – that really helped!
Maintaining a sleep routine is often quite difficult for students but it can really help during busy and stressful periods. Try going to bed early and getting up at a reasonable time. If you do that for a week, you’ll feel so much better.
Home-sickness – this caused a lot of distress for some people I went to uni with! It’s a hard adjustment to make, especially if you’ve never lived away from home before.
I tended to put a lot of pressure on myself because I knew I was paying high fees! I wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth by achieving a good grades – but this can be quite stressful!
A lot of students also worry about money a lot! I’m not sure how to deal with this but there are lots of budgeting apps that help you manage your money and people can get debt advice from citizen’s advice and charities.
So have you got tips to pass on to young people over the next few months? If so, then share them with us on our Facebook, twitter or instagram. And, if you haven’t already, then you might find that my book Happiness: The Inside Job is a great gift to give to someone you know who is finding it hard to cope.