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Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 01:15 GMT 02:15 UK
Stressed students turn to bluebells
psychology students
Psychology students being positively calm
Sixth form college students have been finding their coursework and A-level exams much easier to cope with after being taught relaxation techniques.

We've had more students with stress-related illness during the exams than ever before

Anne Blaney

Psychology teachers at South Birmingham College's St Philips campus came up with the idea because they were concerned about growing signs of stress in their 40 students.

Some were given tips on extra revision - others on motivational and physical relaxation techniques.

To the tutors' surprise, the students raved about the stress-busting.

"One student said to me she'd gone into the class thinking she'd rather revise, because she'd forgotten things, but actually found it very helpful," said the head of student services, Anne Blaney.

student stretching
Students were surprised to find it worked
The sort of relaxation techniques they used were clenching then relaxing the face muscles in a quiet room.

Another one involves closing the eyes and extending the arms, palms outwards - which is perhaps easier to repeat in an exam room.

"The face one is probably a bit scary for everyone else around you - and invigilators might get the wrong idea," said Ms Blaney.

"You can visualise something as well such as an old, quiet wood with bluebells, and associate that with calmness."

The "positive mental attitude" approach can be something as simple as putting a poster on your bedroom door saying: "You can do it".

Constant testing

Anne Blaney said the approach did seem to have brought real benefits to a group of youngsters plainly struggling under the relentless pressure to perform academically.

"I know it's not a very large sample but we've had more students with stress-related illness during the exams than ever before, and needing medication," she said.

And while practice might improve relaxation, the same does not seem to be true for exam technique.

"In this day and age students are under enormous pressure in exam time.

"These are the students now who have had more testing than any before them and it's making them more stressed, rather than less.

"They have had more experience of tests so they should in theory be more relaxed but that doesn't seem to be happening."

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31 Mar 00 | Education
Yoga to calm pupil stress
12 Jun 00 | Education
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02 Nov 99 | Education
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