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Take practical steps to defeat stress and be ready for matric exams

With the national Grade 12 exams beginning in just under a month, the stress on South Africa’s learners is ramping up. A number of learners are likely to experience stress which is part of the exam process.

“Strangely enough, stress is normal. In fact, it can be a good thing because it can motivate you and help focus your studying efforts. However, knowing how to cope with stress can help you take the practical steps needed to avoid worrying without cause, which can change into panic or even depression.”

Considering the fact that this class experienced COVID19 when they were in Grade 8 and that this period brought a lot of loss, anxiety and stress, there is a high likelihood that for thousands of learners, it could be a time of anxiety, depression and self-doubt. The good news says Old Mutual is that there is still time to pause, gather your thoughts, reach out for support, and then give your best.

Increasing your chances of success in exams goes beyond knowing academic readiness. It is also about ensuring that you are physically, emotionally, and mentally ready for exams, says Old Mutual senior manager for education, Kanyisa Diamond. This will require seeking out available resources.

“Advice and support is always available and can range from assistance on making changes to your routines to help you cope and understanding how to avoid stress or depression. Old Mutual supports the drive for mental wellness by working with organisations such as LoveLife, the the Centre for Mental Wellness and Leadership (CMWL) and the South African Depression and Depression Group (SADAG)”

Nomfundo Mogapi, CEO of the Centre for Mental Wellness and Leadership, suggests that managing stress and anxiety begins with identifying things that can be easily changed.

Some of the practical steps that she and other experts recommend are:

Avoid skipping meals, get enough sleep and make exercise a priority.

Pulling all-nighters is the quickest way to burn yourself out and negatively impact your ability to concentrate. Eating poorly and staying at your desk all day can also increase anxiety. To perform well, try and get at least eight hours of sleep.

Take slow-release carbs that help keep your blood sugar levels steady through the day part of your diet. These foods include brown rice, barley, oats, bran, peas, beans, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts, and fruit. Drinking water instead of cup after cup of coffee or energy drinks will also help.

About 30 minutes of exercise, simply walking around the block, for instance, will help clear your mind and keep you energised and able to concentrate on your studies for longer.

Finding and using resources that make studying easier

Technology can reduce the studying load by providing resources that can focus your efforts. The Old Mutual ‘Learn. Think. Do’ initiative with selected partners provides online resources through the Matric Live App, which offers previous matric exam papers and live exam simulations so you can test yourself and bring the exam room into your home. An audio option makes learning simpler and more enjoyable.

Velle, a service offered through the Telegram Messenger App, improves learning through online classrooms and free tutoring for the concepts you find difficult. Tuning into the Woza Matric Radio and TV broadcasts, the details of which can be found on the Department of Basic Education’s website, can also help deliver great studying results.

“Now is the perfect time to get ahead and stay on top. Create a schedule, log in and remember to allocate more study time to the subjects you are weakest in, as this will give you the greatest benefits,” says Diamond.

Don’t try and do it all on your own

If you feel overwhelmed and are struggling emotionally, which is highly likely considering what the Class of ’22 has been through in the past two years, talk to someone. Surrounding yourself with social support including talking to friends and family or getting professional help is important so that problems can be addressed quickly.

“World Suicide Prevention Day, which falls on September 10 this year, is a reminder by the World Health Organization that suicide is the leading global cause of death for people aged between 15 and 29. This year’s theme of ‘Creating Hope Through Action’ tells us that anxiety and depression are real threats regardless of a person’s age.”

“Working to a plan and seeking help when it is needed has never been more vital. Help is just a phone call away,” says Diamond.

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