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Exam Stress: How Serious Is It?

06/03/2017 10:13 | Updated 06 March 2017
Niall Carson/PA Wire

I can't stop. 10 more minutes. If I get this maths paper over with I'll feel much better. They said at school that it's simple: if we work hard we'll do well. I know I can do this, maybe I could get an A in maths... no, you can't think that far ahead. Ugh, this question! It's impossible. I give up. No, you can't! Just two minutes on your timer, nearly there. Man, I'm so tired. My head hurts. I need to stop.

NO! Come on! Got it. Now, time to stop and find something to eat...

I stumble down the stairs, everything is going blurry and I'm shaking like a leaf.

That was last year. That was what life was like in the run up to my Higher exams. My mind was a battleground of thoughts, and I pushed myself to ridiculous limits. I was weak and the only way I knew how to relieve the strain was exercise. Soon the pounds began to drop, and in my strained state I didn't even notice.

What's worse is that I know I'm not the only one who has experiences like this. Through doing the Mindset campaign my eyes have been opened to the vast number of students with similar tales to tell. Late nights, little sleep, headaches, eating issues.. the list goes on.

We've become so accustomed to the word 'stress', we use it all the time and sometimes I think that the overuse of the word has made it hard to distinguish between the serious and the frivolous.

What is a offhand, joking remark, and what is a cry for help?

Unfortunately, for me and thousands of British teenagers going through exams, stress is serious and very real.

When you're told that your career, your future and your identity hang on how you perform in a test it has one of two effects: the first is that you freeze and because you cannot cope with the weight of responsibility, you pretend it isn't there. The second is just as damaging: you drive yourself to the ground because you're afraid of failure.

Few find a balance between these two reactions. This is why the Mindset campaign is not only useful, but essential. When you're the one under that pressure, you don't believe anyone understands, or anyone can help you. You tell yourself that whatever happens is your responsibility.

Looking back I wish I'd realised earlier that these things were lies, and that I'd admitted I was struggling and sought the support I later found. Maybe then things would have been different, and I wouldn't still be undoing the damage exam stress did to my body.

Thousands of children are combatting that same stress right now.

To them I say: remind yourself of what really matters: family, friends and your happiness. Work hard, do try your best, but don't become controlled by the fear of a grade on a piece of paper.

That does not define you.

Aimee is part of BBC Learning's The Mind Set campaign. For information, support
and advice on exam stress visit: www.bbc.co.uk/mindset

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