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Stressed about exam results? Read this!

Last updated on: May 27, 2013 16:00 IST

Image: The pressure to perform well in an examination causes anxiety among students
Photographs: Sahil Salvi/ Paloma Sharma

Not having cleared her Class 12 CBSE examinations, a young girl committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of Madhya Pradesh Mantralaya building.

Examination stress has been one of the major causes for deaths in India and one that has caught the attention of the government too.

However there is much that needs to be done. Paloma Sharma reports.

The heat of the Indian summer coupled with the impending declaration of board exam results has made life similar to living in a pressure cooker for students across the country.

While some boards, such as the ICSE and the CBSE, have already declared their results, a large number of students affiliated with the various state boards across India face an uncertain future.

The declaration of board exam results, though liberating to a few, can be a terrifying experience for so many.

The pressure to get the right percentage, to get into the right institution, to get the right job comes with an uglier side than just a few shattered dreams. So, it isn't surprising that student suicides have now become almost synonymous with board exam results.

And the trend is disturbing.

India accounts for 17 per cent of the global population but is home to 20 per cent of the suicide cases in the world, with a large number of the victims being between the ages of 15 to 29.

Experts believe that there is more than a purely academic angle to the high levels of stress that students are facing.

"These pressures rise from not only for career options but social surroundings too," observes Dr Shruti, a practicing psychologist and hypnotherapist.

She attributes the social prestige attached to higher exam scores and, likewise, the stigma attached to lower scores or career choices beyond the socially respectable pool of doctors, lawyers, engineers and IAS officers.

Along with academic, social, familial and peer pressure, students face several changes within themselves.

They are left to face adolescence and the issues that come along, alone. The inability to get some answers about this awkward stage in their lives from a reliable source often adds to the stress levels of the average student.

Dr Shruti emphasises on the role of educational institutions and kin in helping young deal with life's pressures, "Teachers, often due to large number of students, miss out the issues these students face. Apart from the typical social and familial issues like peer pressure, single parenting/ nuclear family, families and schools should also look out for psychological profile of students. Some students take the pressure of performance more seriously than required. Some other may carry depressive symptoms either developed or it runs into their families resulting into suicides."

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Tags: Dr Shruti , CBSE , ICSE , IAS , India

Avoid extreme thinking

Image: Maintain a time table and find time to relax between studies

Having completed her PhD in developmental psychology, specialising in parent-teen issues, Dr Shruti lists some quick and easy tips for students on keeping it cool this result season:

  • If you're preparing for an entrance exam, keep a time table and in your free time do not think of studies, just relax. 
  • Do talk to your parents regularly about what are you feeling.
  • Do not compare yourself. Every individual is unique with his/her own set of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Avoid extreme thinking. Remember, you are not your marks.
  • Put some happy thoughts around your room or in your diary as posters/quotes. Positivity goes a long way.
  • Maintain a diary mentioning your priorities and your goals. List the pressures you face in one column and list what you are doing to handle those pressures in the other column. This will help you see your personal growth.
  • Be around people who love you, support you and guide you. This will motivate you to do better.
  • Do visit a professional psychological counsellor. It is absolutely okay to visit a psychologist. There's no harm in asking for help.
  • Although self-help is said to be the best form of help, students do need a support system to get them through this awkward phase of life.
  • Parents have a considerable amount of influence even over the most rebellious of teens. They can use this influence to help their children through tough times, such as uncertainty or disappointment over exam results.

Parents know the child better than anyone else and can easily pick up signals of depression/suicidal tendencies.

If your child is using phrases such as "I am nothing", "The world would be better without me", it is cause for concern.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Your marks do not signal the end of the world

Image: In times of failure, don't leave them alone

Shivani Manchanda, career counsellor and director of Career Track, emphasises a parent's role in helping students learn to cope with stress.

With over 20 years of experience in her field, Manchanda reveals a few pearls of wisdom for parents on how to best support their children deal with the stress that has become synonymous with board exam results:

  • If your child is depressed after the exam results then keep an open line of communication with them, be understanding and most importantly help your child to keep things in perspective. 
  • If your child is particularly depressed and anxious take time out from work, spend time with them and be supportive. Don't leave them alone and wallow in their failure. Your support is the single-most important thing at this crucial juncture if possible talk about your own failures and how you have coped with them. 
  • Help your child to see that life gives many opportunities to each one of us to dust the dirt from our knees and move on.
  • Help your children list their strengths in various domains and identify various positive options they have to fulfil their own potential.
  • Career options are plentiful in today's economic landscape and it is very easy to leverage your child's personality to align themselves to the various opportunities that exist.
  • On a long term basis, love your child for each and every one of their strengths and capabilities. Even though academics are important they are only one of the factors that can contribute to a person's success in life.

As India's young feel the pressure increasing with board exam results inching closer every day, spending time with oneself and one's near and dear ones has never been so important.

A healthy diet, some physical activity and positive thoughts are a couple of techniques that students can keep ready at hand to bust the stress that's coming down on them harder than ever before.

No matter what the future holds for the Indian youth, it does no harm to be reminded time and again that you are not your marks and your marks do not signal the end of the world.

Imbibe a little bit of Hakuna Matata in your daily schedule and you should be just fine.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/