Exam nerves or excitement?

Exam Nerves

This year is a big year in our house. Both my sons are sitting exams… GCSEs and A Levels….. and they both have very different approaches to those exams. My eldest son is so laid back about them that he is practically horizontal. He has inherited my somewhat odd enjoyment of the formal exam and heads to the exam hall with a smile on his face and a jaunt in his step, having, at some point, magically gleaned enough information to be successful. My youngest has a more traditional approach, combining sleepless nights with bouts of self doubt and very hard work. He has definitely not inherited the “I love exams” gene. Their very different approaches to exams, nerves and the stress that goes with them are interesting to see as both have been brought up in the same way. Also, for me, as their mum and a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, it is rather more than interesting. I want them both to be happy.

Do exams really matter?

I learnt a huge lesson when my eldest son was studying for his GCSEs 2 years ago. We fought often over what I thought was necessary in the way of study…and what he thought was necessary. We (I) ranted over the amount of time that should be spent hunched over books and, I am ashamed to say, many a door was slammed. It got to the stage where our relationship was beginning to change, and not for the better. One evening, mid rant, I stopped, looked at my son and asked, “What am I doing??” The thing is, at the end of the day, do exams really matter??

“Of course they matter!!” I hear you cry…

But, to be honest, does the sky fall in if you get a D instead of a B? Do the tides fail if you don’t pass Maths first time? Well….no. They don’t. Life goes on.life goes on...

Life goes on and I realised that in that moment. I also realised that I had two sons who were (are) good, honest, loving young men. Whether they had 3 GCSEs, 8GCSEs or none I would love them for who they are as people, as my sons. I had to trust them to do the best that they could. Surely that’s all any of us can do….do the best we can in life with what we have?

So, from that moment I stopped my ranting, my controlling ( not easy, I promise you!). Instead, I encouraged. I nurtured. I walked away to make a cup of tea…

But what about exam nerves??

Mmmmm…. exactly. What about them? Even if you decide to take a back seat and come to the conclusion that exams are not the be all and end all of life…you still have to do them. If you are like my eldest then that’s not such a big problem, but if you are like my youngest… nerves can be hard to cope with.

I saw a fascinating short film by Simon Sinek which I have shared below. Its all about mindset and the different ways people perceive challenging situations. My eldest son and I look at exams with excitement and pleasure ( yes, I know, slightly weird) because we see them as a way to show how much we know. We anticipate success, or if not success then a learning experience. My youngest gets nervous because he worries about a negative outcome…

Excited? Or nervous? You decide!!

Simon Sinek¬†‘s short film. Please click to watch.

Easier said than done…

I can just imagine you saying that… “Well that’s easy for her to say!” But… actually, it is easier than you might imagine. Its a case of practising that mindset. If you imagine yourself at some point in the future, perhaps opening your results envelope and use that future self as a positive beacon. What lies in the way of you opening that envelope with a smile on your face? Work? Sitting exams? So who can make this happen? Usually its you… My eldest son often says “I know what I need to do, Mum” and he’s right. He does know what to do and it is his choice whether he does it or not. You can only do your best with the tools that you have and if you do that, you can’t go too far wrong. Once you know where you are heading and you know that you are doing the right things to get there, what is there to be nervous about? You might be surprised to feel yourself starting to change the way you think about exams…

As Simon says…a lot of this has to do with interpretation of physical signs and this can take practice, but if that practice means that you can walk into the exam hall with a feeling of excitement, then surely its worth working on? Recognising the physical signs such as a beating heart, sweaty palms…. as something that is ok, normal, a sign of good things to come, of achievement is a great skill.Using that future self as a beacon…knowing that even if your results are not brilliant, its ok….its not the end of the world….knowing that your nearest and dearest will still love you whatever happens… ¬†When you use all these tools life can start to look very different. Life can start to be a world of opportunity…

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