A doctor's prescription for exam stress
Are you stressed out about SATs or GCSEs? Don't worry we've tracked down Doctor Gill Jenkins to give us the lowdown on how to survive the nightmare exam period
I am finding that my heart beats very fast when I am in bed because I am worried about my exams at night. What can I do?
A fast heart beat is a normal part of being anxious or worried. If it goes on all night, you should see your doctor, but try some relaxation methods first. You can get help from relaxation tapes from lots of shops or try simple muscle tensing and relaxing methods. Starting with your toes, scrunch them up as you lie in bed, focus on your toes, let them relax. Move up through your feet and hands all the way up your body, thinking about the muscles, your breathing should flow, your heart beat should flow, and you should relax.
I keep getting sore heads but Ibuprofen won't take my headaches away. What can I do?
"Many people forget to pace themselves before an exam."
Headaches can have lots of causes and stress is one of them. It is important that you make sure your eye sight is ok and if need be, see the doctor to rule out anything worrying. However, if the cause is stress, you need time to relax and have space to yourself. Many people forget to pace themselves before an exam. If Ibuprofen doesn't help, it may be worth trying other painkillers such as aspirin or paracetemol. If none of the painkillers work, see a doctor, and remember to eat well and lots of sleep.
How do I relax on the day of the exam?
On the day of exams, difficult as it may be, you need to make sure you wake refreshed. Try to get a good night's sleep before. Try a warm bath and a small carbohydrates snack and maybe a biscuit and hot chocolate before you go to bed. Set your alarm, and have a family member agree to wake you so you don't worry. Have a small breakfast, your brain will work better with food.
Does exercise help your concentration and what foods are good for exercise?
Exercise is good for you in almost every way. It will help your brain to concentrate because when you exercise your heart is going faster, and you are breathing faster and taking more oxygen to your brain. To keep up with exercise you need a good amount of energy providing food such as simple sugars and starches. You need carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice. Remember this should be part of a balanced diet where one third of your diet consists of carbs, one third of your diet should be fruit/veg - this gives you your vitamins and minerals, and then a small amount of proteins, and a very small amount of fats.
When I try to write quickly for a long time I get bad cramps in my hands and I have to stop. I'm worried this will make me lose time in the test - what can I do?
Like any muscle and part of the body, your hands will not get cramped if they get exercise. Try practising writing at home, or doing some piano type exercises, or simple stretching and relaxing. Again, a good diet and rest are important. You are less likely to get cramped if you have a drink and breakfast because a lack of salt and sugar make cramps more likely. Dehydration is also bad for cramps.
What do I do because when it's time for the exam to start my mind just goes blank when I know I knew the answers before?
It's often difficult when you try to think about what you might be asked because it's hard to focus. In the exam, you need to take some deep breaths, read the questions and then read them again. One of the commonest mistakes is to misread the question. If your mind goes blank, write some notes in the side or on a spare sheet of paper, in a word association manner to jog your memory about topics related to the question. If you really can't focus and you have the option, change to a different question and then come back to that one.