Stress is not only psychological, it manifests as various symptoms such as headache, muscle pain, stomach upset, and sleep problems. It is important to these symptoms are recognised and dealt with, otherwise they may hurt your peformance in the exams.
“Palpitations, dry mouth, sleeplessness, emptiness in the stomach and shaky hands are some of the symptoms of stress that we see often in our clinics. In fact, students not being able to concentrate is one of the earliest signs of stress,” said Dr Achal Bhagat, senior consulting psychiatrist at Indraprastha Apollo hospitals.
And, it is not just the students appearing for board exams.
Dr Samir Parikh, director of the department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, received a call from a 13-year-old boy from Kerala on the helpline number run by the hospital. The exam anxiety impacted his performance so much so that he would often blank out while writing the examination.
The rising numbers
Every January, just before the exam season, city doctors see a rise in the number of children who seek counselling for stress or anxiety. “The numbers goes up by one-and-a-half to two folds. And, most of these children come for exam-related stress,” said Dr Smita Deshpande, head of the department at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.
“This is also the time when parents approach us for disability certificates for children with learning disabilities, just before filling out the forms for board examination. The parents must understand that children with special needs must be evaluated in time so that they can be helped with their disability,” she said.
Dr Bhagat said the situation was better in late 90s and early 2000s.
“It was because of the call centre boom and different fields like fashion designing, communication coming in. People no longer had to be doctor or engineers only,” said Dr Bhagat.
According to him, the numbers went up again when people realised that the newer fields did not necessarily translate into jobs. “Students also wanted to get good marks and study abroad. This also resulted in stress and depression,” said Dr Bhagat.
Why are kids stressed out?
Apart from their own need to perform well, children also have the pressure of beating their peers. This kind of negative competition may lead to increasing stress levels, said Dr Parikh.
“Also, they are constantly reminded by the parents and teachers that their marks in the board exams will determine their future,” he said.
Dr Deshpande said that parents must not force children to pursue subjects that they like.
“We also need to have more college seats and employment options. It is because of the limited opportunities that children and their parents get stressed about admissions and career afterwards. A degree is like a passport to better life,” said Dr Deshpande.
The hype about the board exams is also a major reason for stress. “Instead of this one-time opportunity, there should be continued evaluation,” she said.
What needs to be done?
Following a healthy lifestyle, eating nutritious food on time and exercise are some ways to keep the stress at bay.
“During board exams, children tend to just stay indoors with their books. However, it is a good idea to step out for a while and do some physical exercise. Children must get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep,” said Dr Parikh.
Parents and teachers must be accessible to children so that they can share their problems, fears and anxieties.