Stress test

The constant uncertainty surrounding National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has taken a significant toll on students’ mental health. Here are some coping mechanisms to calm those nerves
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

BENGALURU: After nearly two years of strenuous education-related stress due to the pandemic, the added pressure of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is compounding the psychological distress of students and affecting the well-being of their families.

Many students are struggling with severe anxiety, disturbed sleep, and depression related to NEET outcomes. Exams are a fundamental part of student life, but for some, the pressure to perform can escalate into significant psychological distress, including depression and anxiety.

The constant uncertainty surrounding NEET schedules and procedures takes a significant toll on students’ mental health. This ambiguity breeds anxiety, making it difficult for students to manage their studies effectively when exam dates and formats change, leading to feelings of helplessness and a lack of control.

Fear of the unknown can turn into anxiety, causing excessive worry, trouble concentrating, and physical symptoms like a racing heart and shortness of breath. In some cases, this unrelenting pressure can spiral into depression, characterised by feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

The pressure on students also stems from external factors like societal expectations and family demands, making exams feel like a measure of self-worth. The fear of failure can be crippling, leading to negative self-talk and a loss of confidence. Perfectionism further fuels anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, as students set unrealistic expectations for themselves.

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Students ahead of 2023 NEET
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Moreover, the lack of healthy coping mechanisms to manage exam stress can leave students feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained. The absence of a supportive ecosystem exacerbates this stress, leaving students in a dilemma about their education, course choices, relocation to different institutions, and alternative career paths.

Addressing the issue

By fostering open communication, seeking professional help, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, practising mindfulness, and relying on accurate information, students can overcome the emotional turmoil associated with exam uncertainties. Healthcare professionals have a crucial role in providing the necessary support and guidance to help students navigate these challenging times effectively.

It is essential to encourage students to prioritise their physical and psychological well-being. If students experience symptoms of anxiety, psychological distress, lack of sleep, or disturbed appetite, they should seek professional help. By taking these steps, we can help students manage exam-related stress and support their overall mental health and well-being.

Coping mechanisms

Structured preparation: Create a study plan by breaking down your syllabus into manageable sections and setting a realistic timetable. Allocate specific times for each subject and adhere to the schedule. Regularly take mock tests to familiarise yourself with the exam pattern and identify areas needing improvement, which also aids in managing time during the actual exam.

Mental health and well-being: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine to help reduce anxiety and improve concentration. Engage in regular physical activity, as even a short workout can significantly enhance the overall well-being

Healthy lifestyle: Incorporating regular physical exercise and engaging in physical activities are essential for maintaining mental and physical health, especially for students under exam stress. Participating in outdoor activities that bring joy can provide a much-needed break from academic pressures. Taking part in social activities and spending quality time with family and friends can offer emotional support, helping students manage stress more effectively. Balancing studies with these lifestyle activities can lead to improved overall well-being and better academic performance.

Have a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to avoid energy crashes and maintain focus. Getting enough sleep is equally important – a well-rested mind can absorb and retain information more efficiently, giving you an edge in your preparation.

Strong support system: Recognising the emotional toll of exam preparation is crucial. Maintain strong support systems by staying connected with family and friends. Sharing your anxieties can combat feelings of isolation. Remember, seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Therapists can equip you with valuable tools to manage stress and anxieties, ensuring you approach the exam with a calmer mindset.

Reinforcing positivity: Setting realistic, achievable goals and celebrating even small victories along the way can significantly boost your confidence and keep you focused on the bigger picture. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations.

(The writer is a senior consultant psychiatrist, Aster RV Hospital)

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