The Leaving Cert can be one of the most stressful times in any teenager’s life. So much pressure is placed on a teen’s performance in it, and for many, it’s what a whole year (if not more) of their life centres around. There’s even the false perception that it affects the rest of one’s life, leading to further anxiety. To beat Leaving Cert anxiety, there are some things that you need to be mindful of, so I’ve put together this article to go through some of them. Students undertaking other examinations, such as the Junior Cert or college ones, may also find this article helpful.
Your Leaving Cert results have got nothing to do with your worth as a person
This is something that cannot be overemphasised; how well you perform in the Leaving Cert (or any other exam) is no reflection on your value as a person. Regardless of how well or how badly you do in terms of Leaving Cert points, you are still deserving and worthy of love just like anyone else.
Do not compare yourself to others
Look, when you’re in an exam class it’s going to be hard to not hear everyone else’s thoughts on the matter and how well they’re supposedly doing. And while it’s good to talk and empathise with each other, do remember that what’s good for them isn’t necessarily good for you. Don’t be intimidated when you hear classmates talk about how ‘easy’ they find a particular topic, or how they’ve supposedly put in an insane amount of study hours each day. Focus on what you are and don’t try to make it competitive or hold yourself to the standards of others.
Not every minute of your free time has to be devoted to study
Despite how some perceive it, good performance in the Leaving Cert does not require you to devote every minute of your spare time to it. Such a thing is actually bad; you’re more likely to suffer burnout and mental exhaustion this way. It’s completely ok to devote time to meeting up with friends, playing games, going for a run, catching a movie, etc. Your mind needs time to switch off from academic activity. It’s healthy.
Mediation can help exam students
There are plenty of benefits to meditation when it comes to facing an exam. Regular practice of meditation has been proven to help build focus and concentration in your brain, and even memory retention. It’s also effective in helping you to switch off from stresses and anxieties, by focusing on the present and letting go of distressing thoughts.
Talk about your struggles and anxieties around the Leaving Cert
There’s no substitute for talking about a problem. Keep your parents informed about how you are feeling about the Leaving Cert. Perhaps you could discuss the situation with an older sibling who has already gone through the Leaving Cert, or another family member. Talk to your friends (without necessarily comparing yourself to them). They’re going through variants of the same thing after all. Talk to your teachers if you’re having trouble with a particular subject, and seek your school’s guidance counsellor too.
Take regular breaks, eat healthily and exercise
Even if you’re devoting whole days or afternoons to study, it’s important to take regularly scheduled breaks within these. Be sure to get plenty of fresh air, and take regular walks or runs during the week. Healthy eating and drinking are important too. For instance, as tempting as they may seem, products high in sugar or caffeine can be counterintuitive to good study and exam performance. They might give you a quick buzz but the crash will soon follow, and you’ll just be craving them all over again. That’s not to say you can’t have a treat, but don’t become reliant on them.
The Leaving Cert does NOT define the rest of your life or career
Believe it or not, the Leaving Cert doesn’t define your life (and the Junior Cert certainly doesn’t). Many people who have failed the Leaving Cert have gone on to do great things, inside and outside of academia. There are people out there with Masters degrees who don’t have a Leaving Cert. Some very successful business people don’t have one either. Just because you don’t have the points for a given course doesn’t necessarily preclude you from pursuing it down the road through other means; there are booster courses out there that can allow backdoor entry. Even for high points courses such as Medicine. The idea that your Leaving Cert results define the rest of your life, and career path, is a complete myth. Why would you be intimidated by a myth?
In truth, much of the anxiety placed on Leaving Cert students is born out of unrealistic expectations and false perceptions. Hopefully, this article has been of some help in giving you coping mechanisms when it comes to tackling exam anxiety. Remember, exam results do NOT define worth as a person, that’s a thought to hold onto throughout the whole process.
However, if you still feel you are getting very anxious about exams and the whole experience continues to be overwhelming, you can reach out to me for a consultation.