From education to employment

Supporting young people to cope with anxiety around results

Yvonne Kekeliadis Brightstarz

With GCSE and A-level results day fast approaching, young people across the country are gearing up to find out their marks and take the next steps in their educational journeys. However, for many, the wait to receive exam results can be extremely nerve wracking.

Not only are young people likely to be feeling anxious about receiving their own results and getting upset when comparing results with their friends, the lead-up to results day also increases insecurity and self-doubt over what their results will mean for their future. 

Nearly half of young people responding to the 2022 Youth Voice Census reported that exams and assessments impact their mental health in a negative way. For those who have taken important exams earlier this summer, and are nervously awaiting their results, this will not be surprising. Supporting young people to develop the resilience needed to cope with anxieties linked to exam results is important, not only for their wellbeing during this particularly challenging period, but for their long-term ability to manage situations of similarly acute stress.

Support and Reassurance for Students

First and foremost, it is important to reassure students that it is completely normal to feel anxious about exam results. As an educator, this may be a yearly event for you, but for your students this is still a relatively – if not totally – new experience. Allow them to voice what they are feeling and acknowledge it. Let them know that you are a person they can come to with their concerns, and where possible, try to address some of these concerns and debunk any misconceptions they may have. Showing students that you are listening to them can go a long way in ensuring that your reassurances are not misconstrued as dismissive.

Support students to explore their options ahead of time, whether that means double checking entry requirements, thinking about university clearing or exploring alternative educational pathways. Point them towards the careers resources available to them, particularly guidance counsellors who will be well-placed to advise on a wide range of possibilities that are open to them. Helping them to understand their options ahead of time will reduce the likelihood of panicked decisions being hastily made if results day doesn’t go as expected.

In the days leading up to results, and on results day itself, emotions will naturally be heightened. For the young people in question, spending time with loved ones can foster positive feelings and provide a welcome distraction, whilst also reminding them of what is most important in their lives. Summertime also provides ample opportunities for young people to try new activities and build their confidence in other areas.  

Supporting student’s mental wellbeing

Reminding students of the importance of other self-care activities, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and spending plenty of time in nature, can also help support their mental wellbeing. In moments where students feel particularly overwhelmed with anxiety, there are numerous breathing techniques they can use which may seem simple, but are extremely effective in helping them to reduce feelings of stress. This includes the well-known STOP technique which requires a person to stop what they are doing, take a breath and focus on their physical surroundings. This can help the person feel more grounded and calmer, allowing them to focus on other activities which will support their wellbeing.

Above all, encourage students to focus on the positives – regardless of the outcome, they have learnt and accomplished so much. By helping your students to focus on the growth they have achieved during the process of their studies, as opposed to fixating on one final grade, you will help them to view their education as a holistic process through which they have learnt about their favourite subjects, tried new activities and made friends. Importantly, we should also help them celebrate the process of their hard work, rather than merely focusing on the end point, and remind them that their results do not define who they are.

By Yvonne Kekeliadis, Founder and Creator of Brightstarz

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