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Coping with exam stress

4 May

It is May, and that means it is the time of the year when many students, of all ages, are facing exam stress. But remember that a little bit of stress can actually help you perform better. So in this blog we talk about some tips to help you manage your anxiety and make sure that your exam stress is healthy…

Handling exam stress

Anxiety over exams is quite normal – ensure your exam stress is healthy though…


Feeling stressed is normal – often exams do not happen in isolation to the rest of life. We think we have a lot to lose if we don’t achieve good results, whether it’s family approval, the next step in a career, or moving on through education. Often exams trigger beliefs of low self as you think “I am not good enough” or “I am stupid”. You may well know you have not done enough work to pass.

Stress when controlled at the right level can lead to peak performance, so allow yourself to experience that beneficial elevated arousal response rather than a negative one. Feeling relaxed and chilled out is more likely to be an avoidant strategy or self denial.  Exams are about having the appropriate level of arousal to perform well.

Top Exam Stress Tips

  • Start revising in good time.
  • Remind yourself you can only to do your best.
  • Get Organised – pull the right information together; know your syllabus and what is expected of you. Bring all your notes up to date.
  • Make a timetable which is compatible with your exam timetable, no point revising Math when it’s Geography the next day.  In your timetable, divide each subject into separate topics; include R&R time, any other tasks that are required to be done.
  • Take and continue your sport and exercise, and if you don’t normally exercise it’s a good time to start simple walking – it’s a great way to regain the optimum level of stress for that peak performance. If you meditate or practise yoga, continue these activities – they are known to help controlling negative stress.
  • Find a good place for study if you can.
  • If you are struggling with a topic try teaching it to someone to see where your gaps in knowledge are. Endless notes are not that helpful if you do not understand it.
  • If concentration is your issue – try scheduling short periods of time with small breaks in between. Each short period is ideally focused with a clearly identified topic. Blocks of three hours at a time is usually less effective than period of an hour with short breaks.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks if you can. It is better to drink water or fruit juice and eat healthily, keeping sugars and fast carbs to a minimum.
  • Learning to breathe deeply and slowly is a simple and effective way to gain control of your physiology and this prevent the stress response getting hold. When we get stressed our breathing elevates as does our heart rate. This can lead to profuse sweating, clammy hands, and dizziness.
  • Studying with friends can be helpful if you are lacking motivation or struggling with some concepts and encouragement between students can be very helpful, so a balance of individual revision and some group revision may be helpful to you.
  • Ideally keeping good sleep habits is helpful however if you do not get your normal amount of sleep its useful to remember we can function reasonably well for short periods of time with less sleep and short naps.

Exam Techniques

  • Know what exam it is and when – nothing worse than turning up for French to find its History
  • Organise your necessary supplies for the exam ahead of time with any spares.
  • Last minute revision can work for some people some of the time, however it’s probably not a useful strategy for an extended exam period.
  • Ideally eat before the exam to keep your energy supplies available and combat anxiety feelings.
  • Remember to breathe slow deep breathes as you go into and sit through the exam; it will help to keep your mind clear and remain calm and focused.
  • Read the question and allow time to understand what is being asked of you before answering.
  • Ideally time your exam so you can read through and make any amendments to the questions answered.
  • When you have finished one exam focus on the next one, wasting valuable time trying to evaluate what you have just done is a job for the examiner, not you.


Are you struggling and find anxiety is beginning to get the upperhand?

If you or your child/partner is becoming increasingly anxious about their exams, you should be aware of the negative thoughts and behaviours that maintain anxiety as opposed to healthy exam stress.

  • With young people, exam stress may well be covering up underlying anxiety in relation to their peer group and the desire to “fit in” with their group of friends and their anxiety may be based on the fear of rejection or appearing “stupid”.
  • For many, the over exaggeration of the consequences of failure are the anxiety where a belief that “I must not fail, it would be the end of the world which would be unbearable and mean that I am stupid”
  • These kind of demanding beliefs lead us into anxiety and disturbance as our self talk becomes more and more critical.  It is important to challenge these negative beliefs and thoughts with more constructive ones based in reality.
  • Facing your fear by identifying them and if you think it is possible you won’t get the grade you want, explore ways to accept that possibility.
  • Check your thoughts of exaggeration, “Oh No, I’ll never get it all done” or “It’s impossible to do well now, everything is ruined”. Challenge these thoughts and bring them into reality.
  • Your personal worth is not based or conditional on your exam results. If we assumed it did though, then consider the worst case scenario and imagine how you could deal with that situation and you will begin to reduce your fear.
  • Avoid becoming overwhelmed by the task ahead by planning and splitting the topics into manageable chunks.

Finally keep things in perspective; nothing is the end of the world except the end of the world itself.

Good Luck and enjoy the challenge!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2012

23 Dec

Christmas is upon us, so from all of us here at The Hypnotherapy Team and the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CCBH), have a great Christmas and enjoy the new year. Remember what Christmas is all about, invest in your relationships, have realistic expectations and enjoy…

We look forward to seeing you all in 2012…

10 Tips for a stress free Christmas Lunch

2 Dec

Christmas can be a tough time, the office party (not embarrassing yourself), flying elbows while doing your Christmas shopping, and of course, planning and cooking your Christmas lunch – especially if you have family and friends coming to yours!

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Lunch. Don't let it stress you out...

The whole idea of the Christmas Lunch can actually cause a lot of anxiety and stress, as we try to ensure that everything goes perfectly. So here are our top 10 tips…

  1. Plan realistically. Don’t demand perfection with your Christmas lunch, and in any case, what would perfection be? We recommend you adjust your expectations to what is reasonable on the day, taking into consideration Christmas Eve and morning, and how long you want to spend preparing and cooking on Christmas day…
  2. Reflect on past experiences. Reflecting on past experiences will help you form good plans. We all learn from mistakes and experiences in our past, Christmas lunch is no different. Remember shortcuts that have worked in the past, and how you and others, have managed the excesses of Christmas spirit.
  3. Have a contingency plan. Obviously, worst case scenario, something goes horribly wrong, you have a power cut, the Turkey has been cremated or it all simply goes “belly up”. So, have a backup menu, something you know doesn’t take long, and is enjoyed by you and your guests. No matter what, you will be sitting down to Christmas lunch with a smile.
  4. Remember not everyone will like everything. Everyone has different tastes and things they like and don’t like. Whatever they don’t like or leave, is in no way a reflection on you or your food. (I won’t eat the sprouts for example).
  5. Don’t take it all too seriously. Enjoy the day, relax, don’t take lunch too seriously or yourself.
  6. Ask for help. If you need help, then ask for it…
  7. Remember the kids. Ensure children are catered for (within reason). Also remember to have something to occupy them. Christmas day is really exciting, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to sit through Christmas lunch, being rather well behaved (though desirable).
  8. Who cares if you have forgotten something? If you forget something, then don’t let it bother you, it’s not the end of the world or a complete catastrophe unless YOU think it so.
  9. Keep perspective. Remember this is only lunch!  It doesn’t HAVE to be perfect we are human and fallible after all.
  10. Christmas is about celebration. Remember Christmas is about celebration of family and Christian values, enjoy the day no matter what. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. And over all these virtues put on love, which blinds them all together in perfect unity”.

So there you have it, our top 10 hints and tips on enjoying a stress free Christmas lunch. We hope you all have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year…

International Nurses Day

17 May

All “special occasion” days are special; however some hold more weight than others. One that is often overlooked by the general public is also one of the most important, and that is International Nurses Day.  For us here at the College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, this day is really important. All our courses are accredited by the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council (GHSC), but also by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), hence the importance of this day for us, and anyone else in jobs / roles of caring for and helping people with their physical and mental health.

If you stop and think about it for a moment, who assists doctors in their role of helping us get better? Who assists therapists in their task of helping us to get better? Who do you find at your bedside, changing a drip, monitoring your progress? Who helps us recover from mental and physical illnesses…Yeap, nurses…

On May 12th we celebrated and remembered nurses right across the globe.  Here in the UK, we hold a special service at Westminster Abbey (London). During the service, a symbolic lamp is taken from the Nurses’ chapel, and handed from one nurse to another, then to the Dean who places it on the High Alter. This passing of the lamp is to signify the passing of knowledge from one nurse to another. This is a powerful symbol of the passing of knowledge, and in many ways, it it’s exactly what the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy is all about, the passing of knowledge.

By offering such a wide range of courses, from foundation courses to advanced diplomas in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy, we help create the next generation of therapists; we are passing our knowledge down to that next generation, so that the next generation can apply that knowledge and help individuals. Who knows, they in turn may well come back to the college and help pass that knowledge on to the next generation, and the next.

For information on our courses follow this link back to our website

So each year, on May 12th, spare a thought for all the nurses out there and the wonderful jobs they do.

Family Values

13 May

It is International Day of families on May 15th,  so I wanted to share some thoughts of what we really mean by family values…

With the ever fast pace rate of change, our children are being required to adapt and assimilate more information than ever before.  It is more key now perhaps than ever before to create strong , safe, loving family environments for our children. As parents we are role models for our children –  parent’s attitudes, beliefs , behaviours and language is a key factor in how children see  the world and themselves in it.  Creating a “healthy”  family environment is an important aspect of parenting.  The supportive family is one where each individual within the family is listened to and respected regardless of their abilities, age or birth order ; it’s interesting to note that most of us grow out of childhood habits such as nail biting and thumb sucking , but sibling rivalry is the one habit we can experience long into adulthood!  Creating a supportive family dynamic is more preferable than a situation where each family member is in a competition for attention.

Virginia Satir, a renowned family therapist, suggested regular family meals.  Here each family member , including mum and dad, would be given a chance to talk about their week without interruption;  thus each could feel ‘listened’ to. Then a question was asked as to how the family, or any individual member, could support the coming week’s activities for that person. Satir’s recommendation was to have this kind of meal at least once a week, so ever member felt supported and respected.  In our busy lives the meal table can often be the only place we can sit down and be still enough for a conversation with our family ,and more and more this activity is invaded by television or mobile technology.

Much of our learning as children is done unconsciously or subliminally and children will come to identify with their parental gender role model.  Awareness of this fact can enable parents to reflect on their own behaviour and communication and consider what they are ‘silently’ teaching their children.

Some things you can do to help children

Encouraging open honest dialogue between everyone in the family

Create the time to talk on a regular basis about their feeling,s helping them to express their feelings at this time.

Offer support, either from yourselves or a close family figure.

Do your best to keep yourself healthy, physically and emotionally, building a supportive network of friends and family.

If at all possible attempt to keep the routine and life experiences the same as much as possible for the children.

Do your best to ensure a safe, loving, nurturing environment.

When listening apply the following:

  • Make eye contact
  • Face the person you are speaking too
  • Listen to what is being said
  • Imagine you are the person speaking
  • Reply when you have thought about what has been said
  • It’s ok to answer  ‘I need to think about it’
  • Carefully chosen words can be as potent as highly prescribed medicines.
  • Use direct verbs
  • Tell your child what you want them to do, using the negative creates confusion.

By Maggie Chapman