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common signs of test or exam anxiety in children

How to tell if your child is suffering from exam-related anxiety

Recognise the symptoms of test anxiety, and help your child thrive!

Exams and tests are an important part of the school system. The capability of a learner to perform well on exams and tests is the basis on which teachers grade them and decide whether they're ready to progress to the next grade or not! A large amount of pressure is put on students of all ages when it comes to exams and test, which may cause varying degrees of anxiety and stress!

A small amount of anxiety is fairly normal for learners during exams and tests. In fact, a little anxiety is not a bad thing as it can motivate learners to put in their best effort! However, some learners develop anxiety to the point that it becomes crippling - much more than what parents and teachers even realise! Fear of failure as well as pressure from parents and teachers are main contributors to exam or test stress. Additionally, those who already have a nervous predisposition are more likely to develop emotional instability during these school events.

The problems is that adults often jump to the conclusion that the learner didn't study or focus enough, or that they're just being lazy. The learner usually ends up feeling guilty and ashamed that they didn't perform well, which ultimately exacerbates the issues! The truth is that if learners have exam or test anxiety can study as much as they want and still end up with low grades. Often, the more an anxiety-sufferer studies, the more anxious and stressed they become, which hinders their performance even further!

Studies reveal that learners with high anxiety perform about 12% below their peers, irrespective of how much time they put into studying! It's critical for teachers and parents to look out for symptoms of exam or test stress in order to help learners manage it better and overcome their difficulties.

View our concentration, memory & study range for kids, teens & adults >

Common symptoms of test-related anxiety

symptoms of test exam stress

Usually, when a learner is experiencing test-related anxiety, they will start displaying symptoms just before and around the time of the test or exam. They may have a short fuse, become a lot more sensitive, seclude themselves or start acting out.

Common physical symptoms of exam or test stress include dizziness, stomach cramps, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, shakiness, light-headedness, frequent urination and a dry mouth. Psychological symptoms include disorganised thoughts, going blank, difficulty concentrating and feeling insecure.

How to help your child overcome exam or test anxiety

helping children cope during exams and tests

While your natural instinct as a parent is to shield your child from upsets, the reality is that tests and exams cannot be avoided. The best thing we can do is to help our children deal with their anxiety in a more healthy way and be aware of not adding any more stress! Perhaps a good way to start is to educate both yourself and your child about what causes their anxiety!

"Anxiety is a feeling a person gets when he or she expects something stressful to happen. When you're under stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline, which prepares it for danger, like when you're running away from your older brother! Adrenaline causes the physical symptoms, such as sweating, a pounding heart, and fast breathing. These symptoms can be mild or intense.

Focusing on the bad things that could happen can make a kid feel more worried. A kid might think, "What if I forget everything I know?" or "What if the test is too hard?" Too many thoughts like these don't leave much room in your mind to concentrate on remembering the answers to the test questions. People with test anxiety can also feel stressed out by the physical reaction and think things like "What if I throw up?" or "Oh no, my hands are shaking."

These thoughts can get the person even more upset, making the anxiety even stronger. Now, the person feels worse and is even more distracted and unable to concentrate." -

These feelings of anxiety are very real for the person experiencing them, and can be extremely overwhelming! Help your child understand why these symptoms are happening and encourage them to open up to you or their teacher when these feelings start to arise.

Here are a few tips on helping your child deal with exam or test anxiety:

  • Make sure they get a good night's rest before the big day. Enough sleep allows the brain to function better! Ensure they're eating sufficient brain foods, too (READ: 7 foods to boost your brain health and functioning)!
  • Encourage them (in a healthy and motivating way) to start studying at least a week in advance - leaving everything to the last minute may create further anxiety.
  • Teach them words of affirmation: "I am capable", "I am intelligent", "my anxiety does not control me", "I will be okay no matter what marks I get", "I studied and I'm ready to do my best", etc.
  • Allow for free time and play time amongst the studying. They will likely maintain higher spirits if they get enough playtime, sleep and social interaction.
  • Natural remedies like PureCalm quickly calm and soothe anxiety, stress and nerves! This herbal remedy for stress and anxiety comes in a concentrated convenient drop form and is easily mixed with water or juice. It can be used as needed for fast relief from general nervousness, stress and anxiety. For ages 6 years and up!
  • If your child suffers from depression, low self esteem or other mood disorders, MindSoothe Jr. (ages 4 - 12) and MindSoothe (ages 12+) are fantastic anti-depressants which help to optimize levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
  • Breathing exercises are highly underrated methods of managing anxiety and stress. Teach your child that when they feel panic or anxiety coming on, inhale slowly and deeply for 4 counts through their nose, and then exhale slowly through their mouth for 4 counts. Repeat until they feel calmer.
  • View our concentration, memory & study range for kids, teens & adults >

If you have any questions, please contact us or leave a comment below for FREE health advice. We always love hearing from you!

Saskia Carelse health holistic blog author

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