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Staying Ahead of Stress

Leaving Certificate year is always a stressful year for both parents and students. It can cause tense households for months on end! However, it is a time when your teen needs as much support and encouragement as possible.

What can your teenager do to keep focused and sustain their hard work? Getting mentally, physically, emotionally and materially prepared will give them more control and help manage stress and anxiety. Understanding the stress cycle can help them to manage their stress.

The following article provided by can help them understand the typical stress cycle and provides some easy steps to declutter their mind and improve their focus.

Good Stress / Bad Stress

Remember, not all stress is bad stress. We need a certain amount of it to perform to our optimum. If we had no stress in our lives, we might stay in bed all day, why bother!? Appealing as this may sound right now, no stress or low stress can be as negative and harmful as excessively high ones. Prolonged levels of very high or low stress will negatively you and your health.

Stress typically occurs when we perceive we are unable to cope with or meet the demands we face. We are all susceptible to stress from time to time and the Leaving Cert year is a prime time for stress to rocket. Stress is highly individual and unique. It affects us all differently.

This year you may experience ‘stress’ relating to difficulties with your subjects, teachers, parents, peers, homework, study, revision, relationships, siblings, money etc. You may feel burdened with pressure to ‘live up to’ expectations. When stressed your nervous system is acutely affected which is why you may be more susceptible to colds, sleep problems, etc. Your heightened sense of awareness can trigger a stress response and start a stress cycle.

The Stress Cycle & Stress Signals

Stress can be subtle at first and build up to a full fledged attack that affects you on every level: physical, mental & emotional. There is a strong interconnection between these systems that create your level of wellbeing & health. To perform to your optimum you need to nourish and look after all aspects of your health, wellbeing & study programme!!

Usually the first signs of stress that we notice are the physical ones, eg, funny tummy, irregular bowels, headaches, backaches, interrupted sleeping or difficulty getting to sleep, irritability, snappiness and a generalised feeling of fear. However, these physical signs are usually preceded by stressful thoughts and emotions we are experiencing either consciously or unconsciously. You may not be aware consciously that you are fuelling your stress with your anxious thoughts patterns. These thoughts feed your emotions and can lead to self doubt, worry & generalised anxiousness and lead ultimately to unhelpful behaviours. This is the typical stress cycle. Listen to the messages your body is giving you, it is important to recognise patterns of symptoms and look for ways to redress any imbalance.

Think of your mind, as a computer. Make sure your software is working for you and leading you in the right direction. Be aware of your thoughts, if you are overly anxious or constantly berating your efforts, this will impact on your belief in your abilities which directly impacts your effectiveness & performance!!

It’s true what they say, garbage in, garbage out. What you focus on expands, so make sure you are focussing on your positive strengths, talents & accomplishments. Learn from past mistakes or failures, but don’t dwell on them.

You can reverse this stress cycle by adjusting your thought and behaviour patterns by:

  • Boost Your Belief in Yourself to Meet the Challenges You Face – Develop Positive Self Talk.
  • Plan your Time and Study Strategy
  • Make Simple Behavioural Adjustments to Support Your Plan

Remember, it is normal to feel a certain amount of stress this year. However, it is important to keep it in check. Unchecked stress can lead to isolation, feelings of lonliness, health problems, paranoia & in the extreme, suicidal thoughts. If you are experiencing dark thoughts, talk to someone immediately: your teacher, parent, friend or counsellor. Don’t bottle it up!!

How Stressed Are You?

As we have identified, stress awareness is Key. The best way to tackle stress is to meet it head on and identify simple steps to reduce it. Small steps can make a big difference to your perspective and coping abilities. If you can break tasks down into smaller sizes, you get a sense of progress and control. Identify your stressors and your symptoms: List what is within your control and outside of it. Make an action plan to address the things that you can influence and come to terms with those that are outside of your control now. For a quick stress test @ .

Click here for lots more resources to help with
Parenting your Exam student