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How you can help take the stress out of exam results

Meditation, breathing, walking and even eating chocolate are ideal ways for both parents and teens to relax

By Lisa Salmon

They may not let on. But rest assured, many teenagers waiting for their exam results are feeling extremely anxious at the moment. And they're not alone - there are plenty of parents equally stressed about their child's exam results, be that GCSEs, A-levels or others.

Research by the National Citizen Service (NCS) found that 58% of teens say their biggest worry of the year is that they won't achieve their desired exam results.

More than a third of parents (36%) said they worried most about their teenage children suffering exam stress, this fear being more prevalent than concerns about drinking, smoking or being bullied.

In response, the NCS, which offers a summer adventure and activity programme for 16 and 17-year-olds, has teamed up with mindfulness expert Dr Danny Penman to give teens and their parents practical help to alleviate stress as they await their results.

"Mindfulness can help teens and parents," promises Penman.

"If you're being mindful you're fully aware of whatever's happening in the present moment, without being trapped in the past or worrying about the future - a great help when waiting for results."

Here's how to be mindful and meditate, according to Dr Penman:

  1. Sit erect but relaxed, or lie down. Relax your arms and hands.
  2. Close your eyes and focus on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Feel the sensations the air makes as it flows through your mouth or nose, down your throat and into your lungs. Feel your chest and stomach rise and fall. Focus on where the sensations are strongest. Observe your breath without trying to alter it in any way, or expecting anything special to happen.
  3. When your mind wanders, gently shepherd it back to the breath. Don't criticise yourself. Realising your mind has wandered, and encouraging it to return to focus on the breath, is mindfulness.
  4. Your mind may become calm, although this may only be short-lived. It may become filled with thoughts or powerful emotions, and these may also be fleeting. Whatever happens, observe without reacting or trying to change anything. Gently return your awareness to the sensations of breathing repeatedly.
  5. After a few minutes, or longer if you prefer, open your eyes and take in your surroundings.
Close your eyes, break off a piece of chocolate and spend a few moments inhaling its aroma

Eating can also be a great mindfulness exercise to centre you in the present when worries about exam results and the future are taking over, says Penman.

"If you like chocolate, why not turn it into a mini-meditation?" he proposes.

Close your eyes, break off a piece of chocolate and spend a few moments inhaling its aroma. Put the chocolate in your mouth and allow it to melt (don't gulp it down).

Chocolate has more than 300 flavours, so as it melts, see if you can taste some of them. When you're ready, swallow the chocolate. If you want, break off another piece and allow it to melt in your mouth.

Walking can also do wonders for easing anxiety.

Many people find going for a walk helps ease nerves, particularly when waiting for important news such as exam results. Why not try this mindfulness exercise:

While walking through a park, pause, close your eyes, and spend a few moments listening to the surrounding sounds.

Notice how they rise and fall. Pay attention to the smell of the greenery and notice how your chest rises and falls with your breath.

Open your eyes and take in all you can see.

And remember, you're not the only one who's been through exam stress.

NCS graduate Laura Kay from Stockport has made it through exams and results day and says: "I know it's a cliche, but it truly isn't the end of the world if you don't achieve your target grade in an exam.

"It might feel a little rubbish at first, but your results aren't going to haunt you for the rest of your life.

"Life can take you on a completely different journey from what you might have expected, so please don't despair about your results - it'll all work out in the end."

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