This week we are going to be working with older children to help them deal with exam pressures - specifically the 11 Plus test which is held as an entrance to Grammar schools in Kent. Tatty Guroo is the new programme from our Tatty Bumpkin brand to feature older children 7-11 years.
At the Tatty Guroo breakfast club, the children have learnt which postures can help them with specific problems - such as sleeping, anxiety, aches and pains associated with sport and so on. Gradually, the children have been coming to understand the importance of breath as a way of regulating emotions, and this week proper breathing will be the most important way that they can help their nerves and focus their minds.
The three main ways to combat exam stress
1. Regulate the breath
2. Positive affirmations
3. Physical Stretches
1. Breathing properly is the single most important thing we can do to offset stress, and its simple to learn and apply. Breathing completely - filling the whole of the lungs and expelling ALL of the air, is known as diaphragmatic breathing; it slows the heart rate, brings blood pressure down, clear s the mind and relaxes the muscles.
Heres how to do it...
Lie or sit, and close your eyes if you can. Breathing through the nose (with your mouth shut) bring your focus to the space between your nostrils. Feel the coolness of the air coming in, and the warmth of the air coming out. This will help you push other thoughts out of your mind and help to still the mind.
Now focus on breathing from the diaphragm. Relax the tummy and put the right hand on the belly button and the left on the chest. Imagine you are blowing up a balloon into the tummy. The hand on the chest should stay still. Take 3-5 breaths.
Other ways we engage young children in breathing, are placing an object (like a plastic duck) on the abdomen and seeing if the duck can rise up and down (swimming).
Blowing feathers with long slow breaths to make them float.
Or, just simply sitting and listening to the breath, seeing if you can breathe out to a count of 5 - slowing the breath, slows the mind, and then coherent thoughts can form.
2. Positive affirmations and thoughts
Positive talk or affirmations can be used to feel better and create a positive attitude. An affirmation is a positive statement about who we are, and what we can become. They should evoke a positive emotion within the child, and reinforcing this thought give children self-confidence and the ability to deal with stress.
The emphasis is on the words I AM...
I am intelligent and I can do this
I am clever and I can pass this exam
Whenever a child feels nervous or anxious ask them to touch each finger in turn, and silently repeat the mantra. This will replace negative thoughts and emotions and attract positive energy.
3. Physical stretches and warmups
Physical stretches are as important as a good nights sleep for reducing stress and increasing mental focus. Stretching improves circulation by increasing blood flow and in turn the muscles absorb more oxygen, releasing toxins and tensions, reducing the physical symptoms of stress.
Simple neck rolls and arm stretches help relieve neck and shoulder tension. Forward bends aid calming and can stretch the hamstrings. Inversions, send fresh blood supply to the brain and help clear thought.
Above all, the 3 points above, empower the child and help them to maximise their potential through dealing with the stress.