Last week my blog post covered how the whole family can help exam stressed students. At school Clive Leach was helping set up a programme of coaching and professional development for some key members of staff who will lead the mindfulness programme going forward. Mindfulness is not a quick and easy fix taught in one session, it is something that has to be embraced and practiced constantly to have the most benefit to the individual. However, in the run up to exams I did want to pass on some simple techniques we are sharing with our students to help them.
Heart focused breathing is simple breathing to avoid stress and control emotion and is an important part of mindfulness and the positive education that we are promoting. Breathing techniques are scientifically proven to help individuals think more clearly by reducing stress. Last week in a Year 11 assembly I added to the smiling mind meditation techniques that Clive demonstrated to students and parents, by showing and practicing the 7-11 breathing technique. Shown above is a simple graphic to demonstrate this technique from one of many websites. This simple, yet effective technique helps you calm yourself when under pressure and is also commonly used when people hyper-ventilate.
There is clear research that has been carried out by the HeartMath Institute in the United States that has shown that controlling stress through mindfulness breathing techniques helps not only reduce anxiety, but also has a direct impact on improving test scores. Having control of your anxiety and having positive emotional responses to stressful situations is something that can significantly affect your performance. Therefore for students practicing the 7-11 technique, make sure you control your physical state and concentrate on the positive. For a student in an exam this may mean move on and answer other questions, answer what you can remember by making it directly relevant to the question or by thinking creatively. It will definitely be better than writing nothing.
For the brave that know they have studied a topic and are simply panicking, controlling the breathing , clearing your head and being in the moment by telling yourself you do know, may release the information. This is true mindfulness and can work in any situation, in and out of school, blocking out the clatter of negative anxiety and stress. No promises can be given that in the short term this will work but certainly controlling your stress and anxiety by breathing can only be a good thing and the more you practice doing it, the quicker and easier it becomes.
This is something that adults and children of secondary age can continually work on in any place and of course being positive, organised and well prepared mentally and physically reduces the tension in the first place. So do please encourage your children to stay focused in the coming weeks and months and develop further good study and mindfulness habits. Taking control of your body and using your time effectively can take away some (exam) stress and can only help improve your chance of success.
- Chris Share, Head of Secondary