Monday 23 September 2019

Dr Ciara Kelly: Any exam student feeling intense pressure at this stage should definitely be brought to their GP

Dr Ciara Kelly
Dr Ciara Kelly

Good Lord! There's only two weeks and three days to go until English paper One! THIS IS NOT A DRILL PEOPLE! Yes with the exams now decidedly imminent, we are in unchartered waters as parents, and as examinees-to-be. Things have become a little different as most of our Leaving Cert students are either finished or about to finish up school - so we're now in the eye of the storm with classes behind them and the exams ahead of them. They're in the weird revision-zone in between.

This can be an absolute game changer for some students in terms of what can be achieved in this time. With them still being able to devote two to three days to revising each subject which means - provided they're strategic and focused - they can actually cover almost everything that is likely to come up in most exams. It's important to remember that even students who haven't managed to be consistently good at applying themselves can still do OK if they work their butts off now.

The lack of routine though is one of the main challenges for kids at the minute - especially if they live in a house where parents are out at work all day. Most teenage body clocks naturally prefer to get up late and stay up late so don't be surprised if some of your offspring turn into night owls now, sleeping in of a morning and studying into the small hours. I was one of those myself - when it came to study I often found the eerie quiet late at night a good time to get stuff done.

The only drawbacks to that can be, that firstly sometimes it's a way of avoiding working - pretending all day to yourself, you'll do it later, and then perhaps not doing it at all! And so going down the rabbit hole of panic… And then there is always the problem with 'turning night into day', that if you don't get back into sync with day time living in good time before the exams, you will be exhausted and will under-perform in the exam hall come that first Wednesday morning.

The main thing that students need now is physical support. They need a quiet uncluttered space to work out of. A wake-up, alarm call in the morning - or a bit later than that if that's what works for them. They need regular meals, snacks and cups of tea through the day and in my humble opinion, they need occasional doses of sugar - yes sugar, the great hate food of our time! A small sugary snack with a cup of coffee can prolong study by another hour or two when you're flagging, and they've a lot to get through.

The other real biggie that they need at the moment is exercise - you can become punch-drunk from staring at books all day - and as we all know when we try and read our book club tomes - there's nothing like reading for sending you to sleep! So it's hard to concentrate and take stuff in unless we get little breaks to help clear the head. A quick 25 minute walk once or twice a day, breaks the monotony, aids concentration, gives you energy and helps you sleep soundly at night.

Exercise is your secret weapon over these next two weeks. Even though it takes up time, it gives you more time back by giving you that little lift that allows you to get more out of your day. If they won't go of their own volition - go with them! It can be hard to study, exercise, not see as much of your pals and cope with the pressure. It can feel to them like they're in boot camp - so a little support and encouragement by going out in the evening for a quick walk (drag if needs be) with them can very helpful. Plus even though they can't stay on their phones all day or hang out with their friends the whole time, they do need to see them a bit to avoid going stir crazy.

Basically, encourage them to study hard but strategically. Sleep at least eight hours. Get some exercise and eat regularly. Any child feeling intense pressure at this stage should definitely be brought to talk to their GP. Some kids will be finding it very tough, though to be honest school ending tends to lessen the pressure as it removes the burden of lessons, travel and peer pressure.

It's about main stamina now. Keep going we're almost there.

@ciarakellydoc Ciara present 'Lunchtime Live' on Newstalk, 12-2 weekdays

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