I have just returned from teaching my first teen class of the Summer term following the Easter holidays. Exam season is well and truly upon us and judging by my teens, stress levels are running high!
“How are you feeling?” I ask the first arrival at class
“A little bit stressed”, she replies. I sense she is overwhelmed and tearful.
“How is the revision going?” I ask.
“I could be doing more. I have made pages of concise notes. For one subject I have made 12, but some people have made more, up to 42 pages!”
“Has the method of making concise notes been successful for you in the past?”
“What works for someone else may not necessarily work for you. Because someone is doing something different, in this case, a lot more pages than you, does not mean it would be necessarily right for you to do the same. Each person has to do what they feel is best for themselves, without judgement and comparison.”
At times like these, with emotions running high, teens can fall into the egoist trap of judgement and comparison, rather than standing in their own power and strength. A yogic approach of non-competitiveness can help bring a sense of perspective and inner peace.
Here are ten tips that can help ease exam stress.
The practice of writing down goals can never be underestimated. There is power in the written word. In the field of personal growth, the following 4-step approach is recommended:
1. Write down your goals in the present tense eg. I have 8 GCSEs at grade B and above or I have 3 A levels at grade B and above
2. Every day visualise and imagine having achieved your goal. Visualise telling your friends and family. Play the movie of it in your mind.
3. Every day feel the emotion of having achieved your goal. Imagine how that feels and hold on to that feeling.
4. Have gratitude for all the good things in your life, including having achieved your goal.
For some yoga input, try the Dru Yoga sequence Energy Block Release (EBR) 3, Awakening the Heart, which includes specific movements incorporating goal-setting.
Keep your intention pure in that you want to do the best for yourself and not that you want to do better than someone else. This is the difference between coming from your heart and coming from a place of ego. When the pure intention is set, surrender and detach yourself from the outcome. In other words, have faith that things always work out for our highest and best, even though we may not realise it at the time! In yoga, intention is known as ‘sankalpa’.
Create a revision plan or timetable. Take one revision session at a time. Focus on the here and now and commit to doing the best you can in that session, without worrying about how yesterday’s revision went or feeling anxious about what subject is planned for tomorrow. Staying relaxed and taking regular breaks will enhance the effectiveness of your revision.
Eat and Drink Healthily
The quality of your food and liquid intake will directly correlate to the quality of your learning. Eating high energising foods and keeping hydrated with still water are the best options for keeping your brain alert.
Sit comfortably at a desk, keeping the spine upright. This activates both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, which will keep you in a state of relaxed awareness while you revise.
Use yoga postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) to keep you feeling energised and enthusiastic! A good way to start the day is to warm up the body through activations and then do Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). This will set your energy up for the day. For a quick energy fix, try Downward Facing Dog posture (Adho Mukha Svanasana) or Skull Cleansing Breath (Kapalabhati).
When you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, your mind will be in overdrive. To ground and balance, stand in Mountain posture (Tadasana), bringing your awareness to the connection of your feet with the ground. Do a few rounds of the Dru Vertical Alignment Breath.
Release Muscle Tension
Stress manifests in the body as muscle tension, which can eventually spread to cause disease. Dru EBR sequences are extremely effective for easing muscle tension and releasing energy blocks in the body caused by negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. EBR1 is particularly beneficial for releasing muscle tension in the whole of the body.
To help concentration and focus try balance postures such as Tree posture (Vrksasana) and the Flowing Tree sequence, Lord of the Dance posture (Natarajasana) or Warrior 3 posture (Virabradhasana 3).
Breathe and Relax
Most of the time we are completely unaware of our breath. Breathing with awareness keeps the mind and body functioning at their best. It can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, especially at times of stress when the breath becomes shallow eg. just before an exam. In this case Deep Yogic Breathing is perfect to practice. Another pranayama is the Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) which helps brings calm and balance uniting the left and right sides of the brain. These pranayamas are particularly beneficial prior to relaxation. Deep relaxation is essential for releasing stress and activating the body’s relaxation response and is ideal for ensuring a good night’s sleep.
By Shahn Ahmad. Founder, Teen Yoga Tribe