Tackling Exam Stress

It’s currently the middle of exam season, which can be a stressful time of year for many young people and their families – even without diabetes being added to the mix!

Whether you’re a student sitting an exam or a parent or caregiver supporting their child, we have some suggestions on how to reduce exam stress and balance those blood sugars.

Suggestions for Students

  • Keep organised – this is something I certainly used to struggle with! Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. It could be a good idea to write a list of all the topics that you need to revise for and then creating a revision schedule. Breaking up larger tasks into smaller steps can sometimes help us to feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
  • Take regular breaks – maybe you’re finding it hard to focus or noticing that you’re starting to procrastinate. Now might be a good time to remove yourself from your study space for a few minutes and have a break. Consider going to make a hot drink or getting outside for a short walk.
  • Seek available support– many colleges and universities have student support services who can provide you with more information on what exam support you can access. If you have diabetes make them aware and discuss any adjustments that you feel would help you.
  • Stick to a routine – you might feel tempted to stay up later hoping to cram in some extra revision time. Sleep is important not only for maintaining cognitive function but it also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Try and keep to the same bedtime routine and plan some relaxing activities to do before bed to help you unwind such as reading or a mindfulness exercise. Taking time out of studying to eat can also be important. Eating foods high in healthy fats such as Omega-3 for example can help to maintain cognitive function. Avoid sugary snacks and stick to low carb meals to avoid a rise in blood sugar levels. Have a look in our food and recipes section for some inspiration.
  • Monitor readings – if you’re finding it difficult to regulate your blood sugar levels during this time you may want to consider taking readings more frequently. Then you can act accordingly if your readings become too high or too low.

 

Supporting your child as a parent or caregiver

  • Recognise signs of stress – one of the first steps in tackling stress is to notice the symptoms. As a parent or carer, you might find that your child is worrying a lot, appearing low in mood or struggling to sleep. It may help to try and talk to them about how they’re feeling and if there’s anything you can do to help. Try not to pressure them to talk if they don’t want to and instead let them know that you’re available.
  • Help to create a study space – finding a quiet environment without distractions can help your child to learn and concentrate. You could also offer to help them organise their notes and create a revision plan.
  • Talk to the school – it can help to ask the school what support is available for your child and make the teachers aware if they need any extra support or adjustments. It might also help to ask what topics your child is revising, so you can feel a bit more prepared in case they ask you for help!
  • Don’t pressure – I’m sure many parents want their child to do their best, but often this may lead to added stress or worry. Encourage them to do their best and if they don’t do as well as they had hoped, try talking to them about what they could learn from this experience.
  • Encourage routine – as we mentioned earlier often revision can affect our sleep. Encourage your child to go to sleep at the same time and consider creating a relaxing bedtime routine together. Activities such as taking a bath or reading can help them to unwind after a day of study. Sometimes your child may also not feel like eating or may want to skip mealtimes, which if they have type 1 diabetes can put them at risk of hypos. Remind them to take time out to eat and use mealtimes as an opportunity for them to relax and talk about anything they’re worried about.

 

From all the team at diabetes.co.uk we wish you the best of luck!

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About the author

Meg Knight

Meg is a Behaviour Change Mentor for diabetes.co.uk. She is passionate about supporting individuals to improve their mental health and wellbeing through making lifestyle changes. Meg graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and is currently studying for an MSc in Clinical & Health Psychology. In her spare time she enjoys live music events and experimenting with low carb cooking.

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