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SACAP: 5 ways learners can boost their mental health during exams

If you’re amongst the hundreds of thousands of young South Africans currently preparing to sit the 2019 National Senior Certificate examinations, you’re experiencing a watershed time of life. 

If you’re amongst the hundreds of thousands of young South Africans currently preparing to sit the 2019 National Senior Certificate examinations, you’re experiencing a watershed time of life. Living out the last of your school days, and anticipating a completely new and different life stage can be full of positive feelings that range from relief to excitement. However, it also brings with it all the stresses of change which include the natural uprising and amplification of fears and anxieties.

You are part of a generation born into a time of unprecedented awareness of the world’s ongoing political, social, economic and environmental upheavals, so the stress of uncertainty is not new to you. But at this time, the uncertainties are not out there and global, but completely personal and playing out in your day-to-day life. It is likely your matric exam experience is going to demand a different level of resilience from you, and a sharper focus on your mental health care.

According to Lauren Martin, Counselling Psychologist and Head of Teaching and Learning at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology) mastering your emotional well-being is going to be one of the most crucial things you can do to boost your exam performance. “The importance of your emotional and mental wellness cannot be overlooked,” she says. “Low motivation, lack of self-confidence, limited support, fear of failure, perfectionism, isolation, mental health deterioration, uncertainties about the future and anxieties about expectations are all emotional and mental factors that could exacerbate the already stressful experience of matric examinations. It is vital to have strategies to help you manage your emotional well-being as part of your preparations for exam success." 

Here are five strategies for taking care of your mental health:

1. Have a trusted person or persons who you can talk to about your feelings – Most often, just being able to express our worries and fears to an empathetic, encouraging person can shift us into a better emotional state. Find a friend, parent or other family member, a teacher or counsellor who will be there for you.

2. Be your own best friend – Practice positive self-talk. We all have an inner voice that either encourages or discourages us. Be aware of your self-talk and don’t say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say out loud to a friend. Consciously change any criticisms you hear in your head into encouraging statements.

3. Practice self-care – Make a commitment to looking after yourself well in body, mind and spirit. Get sufficient sleep, make healthy food choices and be physically active every day. Your study schedule must include proper time for maintaining the basics of self-care.

4. Take a break when you need it – Recognise the signs when it’s all getting too much for you and take a break to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Yes, you need to study a lot, but you also need some time to relax or take a run; to connect with your friends or do something that promotes your well-being.

5. Be proactive about managing your stress – Prioritise your emotional well-being and have plans and strategies for managing stress. You may need to have some boundaries with people who are highly critical or very demanding of you. Try yoga, meditating, exercising and techniques such as deep breathing and stretching to relieve stress.

For any matriculant who is interested in the field of psychology, counselling, Human Resource Management or Business Management, SACAP offers a wide range of qualifications, including Higher Certificate, Diploma, BAppSocSci (Majoring in Psychology and counselling), BAppSocSci (Majoring in Psychology and Human Resource Management), BappSocSci (Majoring in Psychology and Business Managemet), BPsych, and a one-of-a-kind approach to learning: academic rigour and applied skills.

Graduating confident skilled practitioners is key, which is why SACAP combines an academically rigorous curriculum with a strong emphasis on the ability to apply knowledge through the training of relevant skills. Registration for 2020 Term One, is now open and class space is limited. For further information, visit: https://www.sacap.edu.za/matric-campaign/

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