The HSC exams can be a time of extreme anxiety and stress for many school students across the state. The period of preparation is both difficult and extensive and the year requires continuous concentration as students undertake several months of rigorous assignments and exams. Written by Hope William-Smith.

With one in ten young people experiencing some form of anxiety, psychologists and school councilors often emphasise the significance of planning ahead during the HSC to manage unforeseen stress triggers and busy time periods. For teenagers feeling the pressure in the lead up to their exams, there are a number of strategies they can use to keep focused and energetic.

Linda Campbell from Mind Mastery Wellbeing attributes stress to an unattainable desire to remain relaxed.

“You actually need a certain amount of stress to keep you motivated, but it’s important that you manage your stress of anxiety levels so you stay in that zone of peak performance,” she says.

In addition to academic related stress, it is common for students to fall into poor health habits due to advanced study loads and decreased amounts of beneficial sleep and exercise. Good nutrition, adequate amounts of sleep and daily exercise, along with social activities and down time are vital for strong physical and mental health.

“Exercise helps the flow of blood to your brain and is good for relieving stress. Simple stretching stimulates the receptors in the nervous systems that decrease the production of stress hormones,” says Ms Campbell.

For many students trying to achieve a work and life balance, fulfilling the requirements of the HSC is not only a daily challenge in the classroom but also a personal one. A year 12 Student from Brigidine College, Sophie Clark, recognizes self understanding and tailored preparation as being key stress management tools thus far.

“The HSC is a big learning experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my abilities, as well as how to effectively research study and learn. Hopefully these skills will help me throughout University,” she says.

Paula Noble, student psychologist at Oxford Falls Grammar School, says the key to success lies in finding ways to alleviate stress.

“At the beginning of your HSC, organise yourself through effective timetabling of appointments, classes, commitments, study time and breaks. Watch out for procrastination and avoid it,” she says.

In addition to self organisation, parents also play a vital role in their child’s HSC.

From practical advice to emotional support, preparing meals or driving to exams, stress can be greatly reduced by giving your child some leeway.

Ms Noble advises that parents provide their children with a comfortable and quiet place to study, balanced meals, encouragement and support. They can also help by highlighting strengths and successes and providing reassurance and confidence.

“My parents are really supportive and give me the space and freedom I need to feel like I’m doing the right thing,” says Nick Paton, who is preparing to sit his HSC at St Aloysius College.

“If I have any questions they help me out, but also with little things like helping me clean my room.”

Students are encouraged prepare and work through the HSC diligently, but should retain enough time for enjoy social activities in moderation.

HSC exams begin on October 12 and span six weeks.