By Dharmendra Pradhan
Students often face a formidable challenge to strike a delicate balance between achieving academic excellence and maintaining physical and mental health in a fiercely competitive environment. This balance becomes particularly vital during exam periods when students face academic pressure and performance anxiety, deeply impacting their mental health and overall well-being. Exam preparedness is, no doubt, important. But much more important is to maintain a reasonably good balance between study and a healthy life.
Today, exam ‘performance’ remains so central to the students’ over all mental make-up that they do not see anything beyond academic results. This overbearing notion consumes our students and stifles their creativity and talent. We all know far too well that every child is uniquely endowed and all cannot excel academically. Through the prism of exam result, we cannot possibly fathom the talent of a child. Exam results must not be the only barometer of the success in a student’s life. All of us – parents, teachers, friends and family – should work in tandem and togetherness to provide the child with a congenial environment to realise his full potential. Exam performance is not only contingent on innate talent but also on several things such as healthy body and agile mind that enhances the physical endurance and sharpen the cerebral focus.
Students bear the burden of expectations of the family, teachers, and society, to excel academically. This leads to an unenviable situation that makes them mentally vulnerable and physically draining. At times, with fatigue, their energy gets sapped and it takes toll on their health and well-being. Excessive stress has been construed to be a factor increasing the risk of mental health problems like anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
Nurturing mental well-being is, therefore, imperative. To overcome these challenges, students should remain ever positive, embrace exercise, meditation and deep-breathing to enhance the level of concentration and focus on their studies, establish a well-organized study routine, break down tasks into manageable chunks, and set realistic academic goals to achieve. Providing access to counselling services and open communication about mental health also create a supportive environment for those grappling with anxiety or other mental health concerns.
It would be edifying to note the following comprehensive ways as to how students’ physical health and mental well-being can be maintained during exams:
Small Breaks and Physical Activity: Physical health is one of the fundamental elements in maintaining our overall fitness and agility. Regular exercise not only improves the cardiovascular health but also serves as a stress-buster. It enhances cognitive function, and the ability to recall information, both of which are crucial to enhance exam performance. While preparing for the exams, students invariably attach priority to their studies over their health. We should encourage them to incorporate some sort of physical activities like stretching, walking, jogging, or yoga that can significantly alleviate stress, helping students recharge their minds.
Balanced Diet and Nutrition: Nutrition plays a crucial role in dealing with the demands of rigorous study and staying healthy. Food is a fuel that nourishes both our body and mind. The quality of food that we eat significantly determines our overall health and mental well-being. A common mistake that students often make during this crucial period is to eat poorly or take unhealthy food such as junk fast food, chocolates, energy drinks and chips in place of nutritious home-made food. Sometimes they also skip meals during exams because of anxiety and stress or to save their time for exam preparation. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre provides the necessary fuel for optimal brain function. Adequate hydration is often overlooked but is equally important, as lack of it can substantially impair cognitive abilities and concentration.
Adequate Sleep for Good Health: Quality sleep is equally vital during exam time. There is a direct correlation between sleep and cognitive function, memory retention, and emotional resilience. Students should maintain consistent sleep patterns by going to bed and waking up at the same time, each day. Students who take proper amount of sleep at night are always able to recall better and perform better. Good sleep is also an irreducible minimum for good health.
Supportive and Encouraging Environment: We should create a conducive environment where students can discuss their concerns and seek support from their parents and teachers. Providing access to counselling services for dealing with stress, anxiety, or other mental health challenges should remain a top institutional priority. We should encourage open communication about the pressures of exams and deal with it effectively without getting psychologically entangled.
Exercise and Meditation Practices: Meditation can be a secret weapon to manage exam stress effectively. Students should practise techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga which can help calm the mind, improve concentration and reduce anxiety. These practices can help alleviate stress and enhance mental well-being.
Time Management: Students should adopt strategies to manage study timings to reduce last minute rush. We all know, how the screen time for the students has gone up due to excessive dependence on electronic medium. We understand that in the present time, electronic medium has become a necessity. But, our students need to strike a balance. Perhaps a digital detox will be essential to free some quality time for exam preparation.
In conclusion, nurturing students’ physical health and mental well-being during exams is integral to their overall success. Taking care of students’ well-being enhances their academic performance. It prepares them for the challenges they may face beyond the exam hall. We call upon the students to prioritize health and follow a regimen of physical exercise and meditation, digital detox, mental well-being, quality sleep and a healthy diet, besides effective time management strategy. By effectively handling the exam stress, our young students will perform to their potential and emerge as confident and forward-looking youth committed to realising the goals of Vikasit Bharat @2047.
The author, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, is Union Education Minister