Exam Stress Tips, HSE Talking Health and Wellbeing Podcast

A Chara,

As the school year ends we want to highlight our most recent podcast episode which may be of great value to staff, parents and young people in the context of Exam Stress Tips. Please share the link to the podcast and the blog below as you deem appropriate. Other non-exam related podcasts for parents and young people are highlighted below on topics such as Vaping, Parenting and Vaccines.

In our most recent HSE Talking Health and Wellbeing Podcast, we had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Ciarán Boylan, Psychologist in the HSE. We discussed exam stress and practical tips for parents and guardians on how to support young people through exam time. Dr. Boylan began by explain what stress is; a response to demands placed on individuals.

For young people, exams are a significant source of stress, manifesting both physically and mentally. Physical signs include an increased heart rate and sweaty palms, while mental signs can be excessive worrying or rumination. Recognising these signs is the first step in providing the right support. During our discussion, Dr. Boylan made an important distinction between stress and anxiety. Stress reactions typically subside after the stressful event, but anxiety can linger, independent of stressors. He advised parents to be vigilant for signs of irritability, decreased tolerance, and disengagement, which are common indicators of exam stress.

A key point Dr. Boylan emphasised was respecting a young person’s choice not to talk about their stress or anxiety. It’s crucial for parents to offer support and understanding while also giving space if the young person prefers not to discuss their feelings at that time. We learn strategies for parents and guardians to help manage exam stress, highlighting the importance of a supportive and organised environment. This includes ensuring nutritious meals, adequate sleep, and quiet study spaces. Emotional support is equally vital, respecting the young person’s unique experience and offering a listening ear without projecting parental experiencesor stress onto them.

We hear about the importance of self-care, with an emphasis on activities that replenish energy, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques. Dr. Boylan highlighted the need for young people to stay present and focus on what they can control during exams. He suggested that students could practice some techniques during the weeks before the exams. We learn practical tips for the night before and the morning of exams as Dr. Boylan recommended maintaining normal routine, taking some time to engage in relaxing activities, and providing support for young people to unwind and prepare. On the morning of the exam, he suggested sticking to routine and have something to eat, even with a reduced appetite. Prearranging transportation and allowing extra time for unforeseen issues like traffic can also alleviate stress. It’s important to respect what works for each individual, as different approaches to exam preparation may work for different people. Parents and guardians can play a supportive role by helping pack bags the day before and making a to-do list of what to bring to the exam.

The importance of both practical and emotional support, self-care, managing expectations, and accessing available support and resources cannot be overstated. Dr. Boylan mentioned several resources for young people worried about exams, including websites like JigsawSpunOut, and the HSE website. SpunOut also offers a 24/7 text service where young people can text 50808 for free to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer. Supporting young people through exams is a collaborative effort, and with the right tools and understanding, we can help them navigate this stressful period with confidence and resilience.

We have a number of other podcast episodes that may be of interest to your staff or parents and guardians of young people, these include helpful links to further information and supports in the podcast description:

·       Making the ‘Big Talk’ many small talks

·       Spunout.ie

·       Parents Matter

·       Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids

·       Vaping: Get the Facts

·       Parenting: Talking It Out

·       Your Child’s Vaccine Journey

·       Youth Drug & Alcohol Support

Kind Regards,

Fergal Fox

Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Communications.


HSE Health & Wellbeing, Strategy and Research, Healthcare Strategy, Leas & Folláine FnaSS, Straitéis agus Taighde, Straitéis um Chúram Sláinte