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Tag: anxiety

Dealing with exam result disappointment

Exam results day can be stressful at the best of times, especially if you didn’t do as well as you expected but this year has been exceptionally difficult for many students in the midst of the covid pandemic. 

Here is some advice on how to manage exam disappointment:

Don’t compare your results unfavourably to others

There are bound to be people posting their results on social media and it’s easy to feel with all of the celebratory posts that you’re the only one who didn’t do as well as you hoped but remember – people tend to post the highlights and there will be many other people who don’t feel like sharing their results. 

Be kind to yourself

Firstly, let’s not forget that you didn’t sit those exams. Your grade was determined by prediction during a global pandemic in unprecedented circumstances.

These grades don’t define you or your potential. You are far more than a number on a sheet of paper (or a computer screen). Success is rarely a flat line, you’ll experience plenty of highs and countless more setbacks on your journey. It’s how you deal with them that counts. 

Take some time to relax and gather your thoughts, breathing exercises can also help to reduce stress levels.

Find out your options

There are lots (hundreds of thousands) of others in the same boat. This is a unique situation and it is expected that colleges and universities may be more flexible than usual. Due to uncertainty around covid and a lack of gap year travel options, some 80k students are expected to be looking for uni places via clearing so it’s worth investigating what UCAS advise and checking with places you’ve applied for to see if they are willing to accept you.

If you don’t have the A level grades for University, consider sitting the exam in the Autumn. Otherwise is there a more vocational alternative? There are non-academic qualifications which are equal to A-levels and degrees and may even allow you to go to university at a higher level in the future. This framework compares academic and non academic qualifications. 

For free and impartial advice and guidance, the National Careers Service’s Exam Results Helpline has professional careers advisers available to young people, parents and carers. 

Whatever the case, don’t panic. When you’ve done your research, list out your options and take some time to think them over and discuss them with family before you decide. Making big decisions about your future when you’re upset or stressed isn’t a good idea.

Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed

Talk to friends and family if you feel able about your feelings.

If you are struggling or are worried about someone else, you can contact the Samaritans at any time on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Alternatively you can access Young Minds Crisis Messenger for urgent help by texting YM to 85258.

9 Ways To Ease Lockdown For Your Autistic Child

Parents of all autistic children will know – change is rarely easy for their little (and big) ones. But the last few weeks have bought a cataclysm of change unprecedented in our lifetime and it’s hard. 

Every autistic child is different so I can’t predict how your child will react. I can’t even predict how my own will react. But I know it will be hard to process and it’s likely there will be delayed reaction. And while so much is out of our control, I’m going to share with you 9 things you CAN do to mitigate the impact of the lockdown for your autistic child.

MY daughter, like all her peers I’m sure, will be bored at home very quickly. But unlike most of her peers, she finds self-regulation of her emotions very difficult, and heightened stress with all the change means it’s going to have to spill out somewhere.

She was already at home but this week all her groups have been cancelled, and the whole family has been at home, taking up space, breathing her air, crowding her kitchen, disturbing her solitude. She doesn’t like it. It makes her anxious and very uncomfortable. And in the past, being this anxious has led to unhealthy ways of coping so we, like many other SEN parents around the country and indeed the world, are trying, unsuccessfully it must be said, to keep everything as normal as it can be.

But how can life be normal when your favoured way to self-regulate is to go to the supermarket (yes, we know!)? When you are hostage to OCD, with no treatment of it for two years, but suddenly everyone is telling you to wash your hands? When the professionals you rely on and have been part of your recovery are no longer available and the groups which brought you back into the world cease to run?

Well the answer is of course that it can’t. For any of us.

The world is topsy turvy and just not RIGHT at the moment. And it’s scary. If it’s scary for adults, imagine how scary it is for a child who relies on everything being just as it’s meant to be in order to have low anxiety. Things are very much NOT as they are meant to be. And while this continues, parents of autistic and other neurodiverse children are likely to see behaviours that reflect that anxiety. Behaviour is communication, and even if your child can’t necessarily articulate to you what’s wrong, they are telling you with their behaviour. 

So how can we help?

9 Ways To Ease Lockdown For Your Autistic Child

#1 Communicate The Facts

Be honest about what’s going on (without going into too much detail, depending on the age of your child). Simple facts can be processed without too much emotional baggage going with them. You will know the best way to do this for your child. Bear in mind teens can find out anything and may see some scary things on social media, so it’s better to come clean (pun intended).

#2 Get That Routine Going Quickly

Quickly establish a new routine, and be clear that it’s important there are no sudden changes as much as possible. How varied your routine is will depend on the needs of your autistic child and their siblings. We have a comprehensive resource list here: https://teencalm.com/home-schooling-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

#3 Try to Keep As Much As Possible The Same

It’s likely your autistic child is made anxious by change. Keep as much constant as possible. Although it may not seem important that a particular drink is drunk at a certain time, there is little enough stability to hold on to at the moment.

#4 Use More Than Words

Neurodiverse children are likely to be visual learners, and possibly have issues with short term memory, so make a visual timetable, tailored to your child as detailed or illustrated as they like it. Stick to this timetable every day.

#5 Screentime is Downtime Now

Relax your usual screen time rules, especially if this is one of your autistic child’s means of self-soothing. After all, we bet your social media usage has gone up too?

#6 Use Social Stories

Social stories are visual short stories with teach a lesson about a specific social situation. They can be a great way to help autistic children understand new social situations, as long as they are done properly. Here’s a good resource to learn about them: https://carolgraysocialstories.com/social-stories/what-is-it/ Create a social story to help your child process all of this change (there are some examples for COVID-19 particularly in our home education resources).

#7 Make Sure They Understand the Importance of Washing Hands

Many autistic children are demand-avoidant, and just telling them to wash their hands for 20 seconds is not going to work. They need to understand why and how, and one of the videos circulating on social media where someone uses a coloured soap or substance to show all the parts of the hand which are usually missed is a perfect example.
Alternatively show them handwashing while singing Mr Brightside!

#8 Help Them Understand Why We Can’t Go Out

The Teen Calm household has two autistic teens. One of them would live like a hermit most of the time if he could. He gets his socialising from online gaming and he’s (mostly) happy with that. For him, not going to school is a pleasure and being isolated at home is a habitual choice.
For the other, going out is part of her self-regulation. Therefore keeping her in is already proving difficult and is likely to become a lot more so. Despite the fact that this is all out of our hands, she needs to feel listened to when she moans about it. Visual animations about social distancing have helped – we recommend you make all explanations as visual as possible. And keep some distraction projects up your sleeve for further down the line.

#9 Cultivate Sainthood

As hard as it is, your children need you to be even more patient than normal!

The world may seem as if it has gone slightly bonkers, but what our children are going to remember of this time is not news reports or empty shelves in the supermarket but their time at home with us. Let’s make it memorable for the right reasons.

Dealing with exam stress as a teen

If you’re a teenager of school or college age, you will worry about exams. Essays, coursework, exams by memory, subjects you find difficult and knowing you have to get GCSE and A level grades in order to progress in life means the pressure can be high. Having to choose subjects at such a young age to determine your future path can also be stressful.

Additionally, if you are a teen with mental health issues or have additional needs, having to think about exams can be daunting. You may need extra support from parents, teachers and teaching assistants or have to take fewer exams in order to cope. It very much depends on the individual, how much you are able to do academically and cope with emotionally.

The most important thing is to not be hard on yourself and to do what is right for you. Exam grades are important for careers later in life, but you need to look after your own emotional health too.

Signs of stress 

First of all it is vital to recognise signs of stress. You may experience frequent worries, insomnia, have headaches and stomach pains, not want to eat, feel irritable, feel lower than normal and hopeless about the future. If you start to have panic attacks or depression and are unable to function or feel better, you will need to see your GP to help you manage what is going on.  

The NHS advises, ‘’Having someone to talk to about their work can help. Support from a parent, tutor or study buddy can help young people share their worries and keep things in perspective. Encourage your child to talk to a member of school staff who they feel is supportive if you think your child is not coping. It may also be helpful for you to talk to their teachers. Try to involve your child as much as possible.’’

Speak to someone you trust

Additionally to this, the mental health charity Young Minds gives tips for teens who are struggling with their health and the pressure of exams. They advise several things to help, including:

‘’1) Let your trusted friends and family know you are struggling so they can be there to support you and offer a listening ear. You don’t have to go through this alone.

2) Ask for help from your school and teachers to give you more support and resources

3) Find a study group or start your own – this can help you feel less isolated and build friendships, helping to relieve stress

4) Be kind to yourself and write a list of all your achievements. ‘’ (Young Minds)

The charity ChildLine also seems to agree with the above advice. They recommend that as well as talking to teachers and trusted friends, that speaking with a counsellor may also help in some cases. You can speak to a counsellor at school, through a charity or be referred by a doctor.

Some stress busting tips that they recommend include taking breaks for 20 minutes each hour, giving yourself something to look forward to, planning exam revision in a specific time slot  and making sure you make time for self care, sleep, eating well, relaxation and exercise.

Revising for exams means you may compare yourself to your friends. Try not to compete or constantly look at social media as this will make you feel worse, you may feel not good enough. 

What to do if I am a teen or parent of a teen with bad anxiety?   

If exam stress triggers your anxiety badly, it is important to go and see your GP and also try to practice anxiety management strategies- including talking to loved ones or a close friend,  relaxation techniques, meditation and visualisation, calming music, warm baths, journaling your fears on paper, creating some art and reducing time spent on the internet/ screens. If anxiety is particularly high, a doctor may want you to try medication or counselling. 

Counselling can help to unpack worries in a safe environment and if you are a teen, you can work with therapists that understand the needs of your age group.

As a parent, make sure you don’t pressurise your child or heap criticism on to them if they are struggling. Be there as a support and a listening ear. Help them find a safe, quiet place to revise and be there as a positive sounding board. You can also give your teen small rewards to help motivation. If you are very concerned about the impact exam stress is having on your child, please go with them to their GP.

Child Line have an art box resource  to help deal with stress here: https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/art-box/#Howtouse

Here at Teen Calm, we provide wellness subscription boxes for teens struggling with anxiety. Each month, we have goodies to send to your child to help them with their fears and let them now they aren’t alone.

Anxiety in Teens

Our teen years can be a time of fun, friends and parties. But they can also be a time of increased anxiety and vulnerability to mental health issues. We know that as children enter their teen years, there is an increased risk of anxiety and depression (and other mental illness), due to life and bodily changes.  As a teen, you want to fit in with your friends and developing anxiety during this time can mean that you feel different from others, even though it is very common. 

So what is anxiety?

Anxiety is a reaction to life stress, involving mind and body. It can be a survival system, when we perceive a danger or threat.  As a teen, you may be experiencing pressure with exams at school or stress at home, you are growing up and changing to become an adult and life can feel difficult. Things like dating or public speaking, making and sustaining friendships, money worries, become a priority, but they can be anxiety provoking- causing sensations such as racing heart, insomnia, shaking or blushing.

It can also lead to hyperventilation (shallow breathing), headaches and in worst cases, panic attacks. Adrenaline and cortisol ,a stress hormone, surge through the body, causing a reaction to the perceived stress.  This means sometimes that you may not interact with your family or your friends, isolating yourself and wanting to be alone. You may also have a change to eating habits or sleep or have stomach aches. 

A small amount of anxiety can be good as it motivates us to keep going despite pressure. However, in some people, it can turn into an anxiety disorder. 

What if it becomes an anxiety disorder? 

For some teens, anxiety gets taken a step further and becomes a key part of a mental health disorder such as anxiety disorders and phobias, depression or illnesses like PTSD.  Anxiety disorders can interrupt every day functioning, disrupting relationships at home, school and with friends, your teen may stop attending school if their anxiety is very high. There may also be a significant impact to academic grades and feeling overwhelmed with workload and life in general.  

Panic attack symptoms can seem very frightening, causing chest pain, hyperventilation, upset stomach, feeling like you are dying or having a heart attack, numbness or tingling, for example. It’s important that if your teen is experiencing panic attacks, to go to your GP and see if you can get a referral to CAMHS services. Therapy may be needed to provide strategies to cope.    

In 2018, NHS Digital and Young Minds released figures that said that 1 in 8 children in the UK aged between 5 and 19 has a diagnosable mental health condition. They also said that nearly a quarter of young women aged 17-19 has an emotional disorder and that the prevalence of those experiencing anxiety in the UK had increased by 48% from 2004 in 2017.

So, we know that teens are struggling with their mental health. More cases are being reported and as the stigma towards illness is falling, more are speaking out and reaching for support.

There is still not much known on the origin of anxiety disorders- it could be down to brain chemistry and genes (if your parent has suffered from a mental illness, you are more likely to) or down to life stress and circumstances. A teen experiencing a traumatic event could then go on to develop a mental health condition. 

How can you help?

Helpful strategies include encouraging self care- listening to calming music, good sleep practices, listening to relaxation recordings (guided meditations), making sure your teen is eating and drinking enough and sees their doctor or therapist . It is helpful to go with them to your doctor or find a therapist to help too. They can also call the Samaritans for non judgemental chat on 116 123.

It’s vital to speak to school and teachers to see if support can be given in terms of managing workload, friendships and emotional support during the school day, in order to ease them slowly back to attendance or more support.

If you worry that your teen is at crisis point (self harming or feeling suicidal for example) or you are a teen in crisis, it is important to speak to your doctor or local CAMHS team. If you are under a psychiatrist, it is best to go through their crisis team to seek support. In worst cases, you may have to go to Accident and Emergency. There are waiting lists for CAMHS, so you may need to seek private treatment if possible for you.

We created Teen Calm to help teens with anxiety, being part of a network of young people. For more on Teen Calm subscription box to help your teen see: www.teencalm.com 

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