Tips on dealing with AQE stress from top local child psychiatrist

Dr Philip Anderson, Consultant Psychiatrist

Northern Ireland’s children face the second of three AQE tests this Saturday, as they prepare for the next phase of their school journey – the post primary transition.

Friend of Action Mental Health, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Phil Anderson has offered helpful information on helping our young people to deal with the stress of the pivotal exams.

Consultant in Child, Adolescent and Forensic Psychiatry with the Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service for Northern Ireland, in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Dr Phil said: “In any part of life, the key to managing a problem is truly understanding what the nature of the problem is in the first place. This is no different to young people facing the problem of stress. Stress is widely understood as ‘bad’ and ‘something to be avoided’ but stretching ourselves beyond comfortable limits, whether playing sport or sitting an exam, will not always feel nice, but our development as a person and our abilities cannot happen any other way,” he says.

“Avoiding stress does not really work and in the end is not really possible. Similar to how a vaccine helps our immune systems to prevent us becoming ill from harmful pathogens, stress is known to have an inoculating effect. Research shows that young persons who manage to overcome life’s challenges will develop higher levels of resilience.

“We need to properly understand the benefits of day-to-day stress ourselves and be careful about how we communicate this to young people. How they understand stress has been shown to have important effects. Young persons with a positive view on stress have been demonstrated to outperform those with a more negative view.

“Mindfulness can be an effective way of gaining better understanding and control of our stress.  It is the process of bringing focused attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. A large volume of research has demonstrated the benefits of mindfulness in developing our emotional resilience.

“Children can learn to pay focused attention and help regulate difficult emotions even in the most difficult challenges life can throw our way. There are a variety of ways of exploring this with young people, with many methods to be found online.”

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