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Stressed out, they need help

Experts say solution lies in maintaining a balance between study, nutrition, leisure and sleep. And parents can be of huge help to reduce the pressure on kids. Sanchita Sharma reports.
Hindustan Times | By Sanchita Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 07, 2012 12:38 AM IST

Sitting for the Boards and too stressed to eat, sleep or think straight? You are not alone.

Three in four children across India buckle under the pressure of Board exams and fall physically ill just before or during their pre-Boards, found a survey of 625 students appearing for Board exams in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore. Of these, almost 40% fell ill frequently in the two months leading to the Boards.

Among the common complaints were infections, vomiting, headache, body ache, indigestion and sleeplessness, found the Exam Preparation Practices Study done by the Indian Medical Academy.

"Children are tense, sleeping less, eating junk food and ignoring basic hygiene. For optimal academic performance, there needs to be a balance between study, nutrition, leisure and sleep. Parents can help ensure their children maintain this balance to lower physical and mental breakdown," said Anuja Agarwal, chief dietitian, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, who is also part of the Indian Medical Academy.

Doctors recommend students sitting for the Boards be given all the essential vaccines, such as influenza (annual), chickenpox (twice in a lifetime), typhoid and meningitis (every two to thee years) to ensure they do not fall ill during the boards.

Compounding the health breakdown is the drop in leisure. Only half (51%) are outdoors more than 2 hours a day; 28% don't go out at all. One in three (33%) don't watch television at all, and as many study for more than three hours without a break.

On a happier note, most of students had not set unrealistic academic goals for themselves, with a majority chasing 80-85%. Only 13% — about one in eight — set their target over 90%.

Three in four (73%) adopt at least one healthy measure, such as balancing out the junk food with healthy drinks such as milk and juices, eating memory-boosters such as almonds and fish, keeping out of family arguments and fights, and meditating to music and yoga to de-stress.

"The pressure for Class 12 students is huge; it begins early on in middle school, when many children start attending coaching classes to prepare them for a battery of entrance exams to courses they don't have aptitude for. Apart from becoming psychologically stressed, it's devastating for their self-esteem," said paediatrician Dr Sanjeev Bagai.

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