Exam Season – Lessons for Life, #1

The Waiting Game

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You’ve done all that you can. The pressure is over. Now, all you have to do is sit back, relax and wait for the results to come in.

But rather than relaxing, you may be finding this time incredibly stressful. Perhaps you are experiencing the all-consuming anxiety that sits in the pit of your tummy and spins your mind. The exam paper continually re-playing in your mind; what if I misread this, what if I forgot that, maybe I should have done this differently…?

Logically, you know that there is nothing else you can do but this thought doesn’t seem to outweigh the importance and uncertainty of the results. You know it’s out of your hands but, actually, this is the difficult part – if only there was something more you could do to ensure that the outcome will be the best it can possibly be. If only you could be there to explain the context while they are marking the paper.

But instead of exhausting all that precious energy into anxiety, you can use this time to start preparing yourself for your life beyond education. 

You see, this is not the last time you will have to play the waiting game.  It is an integral part of life and you will meet this point again and again; when you apply for a job that you really want, when you go for an interview, your annual review at work, waiting for test results from the Doctor, and so on.

Learning how to manage your anxiety and let go of outcomes is an excellent lesson for life.

So, how do you do this?

1. Recognise that your anxiety comes from a place of aspiration and a desire to do well. This is a positive energy that will stand you well in life. If you didn’t care so much about something so important, then where would that leave you? 

2. In moments of anxiety, take some deep breaths. Visualise taking the fresh, clean air in through your nose, into the back and the bottom of your lungs. Hold for a moment, and let out gently through your mouth. Take a brief pause and repeat. Focus on nothing but your breath for ten whole breaths.

3. Instead of replaying the past in your mind, focus on accepting the things that you cannot change. The past is fixed, there’s nothing more you can do. But you do have the power to focus on today. By repeating this exercise each time your mind starts to wander, you will be reprogramming the neural pathways in your brain so that in the future it becomes natural to focus positively rather than getting absorbed by anxiety.

4. Remind yourself, again, you care because it’s important but that you cannot change the past.

5. Focus on something positive, right here and now. No matter how challenging your circumstances, there is always much to be grateful for in the moment. The breath of life in your body means you have opportunity ahead of you. The support of your family and friends. The roof over your head and enough food to eat. Sometimes it’s good to get a different perspective by turning your actions towards someone you can help, this takes the focus away from yourself and the anxiety.

6. When you have done these things, you can then think about letting go of the outcomes. You are young and you may not know this yet, but everything that comes your way, good or bad, is an opportunity for growth. There are many living examples where success is simply failure turned inside out. So, even if the results are not as good as you would like, you will be provided with an opportunity to build your resilience, which is excellent practice for what is ahead. 

7. Don’t forget to enjoy your youth! 

Exam Season – Lessons for Life, #2 will focus on how to cope with the results. 

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