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The challenges of being an hsc student …or living with one!

Added on September 11, 2010

There’s no question that for many families, saying that the Higher School Certificate exams are stressful is a huge understatement. Before the exam season arrives it may be timely to consider some simple strategies that students (and their parents) may undertake to relieve some of this stress.

1. Acknowledge in yourself and in others what you do well, instead of focusing on what you do badly. The nature of school assessments is that they tend to draw attention to one’s weaknesses. But studies have shown that better results are achieved by focusing on what you do well. Do the Strengths Test at www.authentichappiness.org to identify your “core strengths”, then use them in new and innovative ways when studying subjects that may not come naturally to you.

2. Take time out for regular “Flow” experiences. We mostly enjoy doing things that we’re good at. And not only do we enjoy such activities but we get a sense of what is known in Positive Psychology as Flow . Flow is a state in which one is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus. You might get this feeling from playing a musical instrument, going for a run, painting, or anything that gives you a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment. Flow experiences leave us feeling more capable and skilled, more together than before, not only internally but also with respect to other people and the world in general: ready to face the hard slog ahead (and to be nice to the people we live with).

3. Be Mindful. Mindfulness is about being in the here and now. Today’s society is all about doing, rather than being. Teenagers in particular never really live in the present because they’re always planning the next thing they’re about to do; or they’re “multi-tasking” – writing an assignment whilst on Facebook, SMS’ing and watching TV (all at once!) Acknowledge what you are doing right now, in the present: whether that is simply eating a meal, or listening to music or driving a car, being mindful is about enjoying and savouring that moment, doing just one thing at a time.

4. Learn to meditate. Many studies have shown that regular meditation not only lowers blood pressure, heart and respiration rate but it also helps to organise the brain, improve focus and memory and increase creativity. Jon Kabot-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction Program, says meditation is “not about not doing, but about non-doing, giving up wanting anything to happen in the next moment”. He compares morning meditation to tuning your instrument before going on the road. He says that not meditating would be like “the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven without tuning first, to themselves and then to each other.”

Finally, don’t forget to keep some perspective: no matter what the result, there is life after HSC!


About Judith Lissing

Judith Lissing is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Wellness Coach, with 15 years experience in teaching stress management and meditation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Immunology and a Masters degree in Public Health, both from the University of NSW. She is also an Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW since 1999. Judith is trained in Wellness Coaching with Wellcoaches U.S. and holds a Diploma in Hypnotherapy. Prior to coaching professionally, Judith held a statewide management role with NSW Health working with all levels of staff across the health sector.




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