Jan 09, 2018
Tutors play a major role in students’ lives—and that includes watching out for their health, too. Here’s 5 tips for helping your students survive the stress that comes with crunching for exams.
The stress of the learning process takes a toll on the steeliest nerves – that’s just scientific fact!
Stress affects our minds and bodies, and can lead us into a spiralling pattern of unhealthy habits like self-criticism, loss of sleep, and poor diet.
Crunch time for exams, particularly for major ones like the SAT and ACT, are especially stressful for students. That’s why it’s critical that tutors be attuned not only to their students’ academic performance. Keep an eye on their stress level as well and play an active role in reducing it.
To help you do just that, Clark has rounded up 5 tips to consider when it comes to helping your students manage that crunch time stress.
Hey, it might even do you some good, too!
Sounds simple—perhaps too simple, right?
But there’s a growing body of research that shows how we frame our mindset is critical to managing our stress level. When we don’t know something, our bodies become physically distressed just thinking about it. Approaching something big and scary like the SAT, then, requires a dose of positive-proofing the mind.
Make your study prep sessions as enjoyable as possible for your students. Encourage them along the way and remind them that it’s “mind over matter”: it’s just an exam, after all. While a lot does ride on doing well, doing well in the first place takes patience and consistent practice. If your student has done their best leading up to the exam, they’re on their way to success. And if they don’t do well, for whatever reason, there’s always another shot.
Remember, too, that laughter really is the best medicine. You might break up the stress with some humor, like a joke or a funny story.
Hey, that reminds us: What did the math book tell the tutor?
I have a lot of problems.
Talking It Out
It’s really important that tutors maintain an active dialogue with their students. If they’re stressed, talk it out with them.
Did you remember to ask how they’re feeling? There might be factors beside the exam affecting their mood, like stress at home or at school, or if they’re an older student, the workplace and in their personal relationships. There’s no harm in reminding a student that it’s perfectly healthy to seek psychological support when we’re experiencing depression or anxiety that we can’t seem to manage.
Talking to yourself is important, too. That’s right. You read that correctly. Recent research finds that talking to yourself in the third-person “helps people gain just a bit of psychological distance to reflect on their thoughts and feelings,” according to Michigan State University psychology researcher Jason Moser, who headed up the study. Self-talk, Moser says, “is a great application for people who struggle with anxiety and stress the most.”
So encourage your student to talk to themselves about what they find stressful and how they feel about it, either aloud or in writing. They can also keep a journal of how they’re feeling during the test prep period. It might just be the trick to help snap them out of feeling the crunch time blues.
Thinking right can’t solve everything. A healthy, balanced diet is absolutely key to managing stress. Making time for oneself to relax means making time for good food, too. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, in smaller portions at regular intervals throughout the day, takes precedence over binge-eating during those fleeting free moments.
Besides reminding students to eat their leafy greens at dinnertime, ensure there’s access to healthy snacks during study time, like nuts (particularly brain-healthy ones like almonds and walnuts) and fresh fruit. Some dark chocolate wouldn’t hurt, either.
Oh, and if your student is old enough to enjoy the sweet nectar of the gods we call coffee, tell them to lay off that third or fourth cup. Large amounts of coffee actually increase stress, thanks to the caffeine elevating your body’s cortisol levels (the stuff that helps regulate your blood sugar).
Moving your body regularly goes hand in hand with diet and positive thinking.
But exercise doesn’t have to involve taking your student out on a run or to the gym: insist that they take regular breaks outdoors during study. Taking a 20-30 minute walk outside is a proven stress-buster. It’d be a good opportunity to have some of that self-talk time, too.
Exercise can also be as simple as closing one’s eyes and meditating in a comfortable place for a short while. The plus side is it’s something you can do with your students that won’t take up much of your precious tutoring time. Here’s some handy quick breathing exercises to try with your student next time.
It’s amazing what taking a couple minutes or so away from the crunch time grind can do to restore a balance of mind and purposefulness.
And when exercising is not enough, a stress ball can be help in emergencies. If you don’t have a trusty squishy around, why not score one as a Clark Ambassador? (Sign up here.)
Finding the Right Environment
Last and definitely not least: one’s study space is one’s kingdom. If your student works best in a quiet setting, ensure the space for your tutoring sessions provides the right amount of calm to maximize their comfort. If a student needs a more dynamic setting to settle their nerves, try a coffee shop or public library or local university/community college if they offer study spaces.
Everyone wants to know what their friends’ pets are up to, but when it comes study time, make sure your student’s smartphone is out of sight (and yours, too! Be fair and set an example. It really does matters!).
So while you’re not your students’ therapist or personal trainer, you are a very important person in their lives. With hard work on both your parts, your impact on your students will be felt long after any exam or schooling.
So consider how you can adopt these healthy stress management techniques into your tutoring practice— and get your student to that next level Zen.