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Big Kids

05th Jun 2024

Coping with anxiety during exam season

Niamh Ryan

Exam season is tough on anyone, but for those with anxiety, the challenge multiplies.

With the Leaving Cert starting today, teenagers across the country are bound to be nervous.

Sitting in a massive hall surrounded by people on all sides can be claustrophobic and daunting. It can feel like everyone is watching, which seriously takes away from your concentration.

While we can only do so much for our children when it comes to school, we can always make sure to be supportive and encouraging at exam time.

Here’s some helpful things to note if your child is dealing with anxiety this exam season.

Waking up early

We know teenagers aren’t always the best at getting up early, but being on time for exams is crucial.

Even being a few minutes late can mean not being allowed in the exam hall.

We’ve all had the dream of waking up late for an exam or getting stuck in endless traffic as we watch the clock tick by.

For people with anxiety this fear can be very real.

Making sure your child is up on time can help alleviate some stress.

If you’re giving them a lift to school, leaving that bit earlier can also put their mind at ease.


A loss of appetite is common during exam season.

The increased levels of cortisol affect our digestion, leading to decreased appetite.

Hunger usually returns after we relax, so it’s important to have food ready to go once your appetite is back.

Packing lunch or snacks for after the exam will help keep your energy up, especially if you have multiple exams in a day.

For parents, you can make your child’s favourite meals on exam days that they’re particularly stressed about.

Comfort food can do wonders, and making sure they’re eating the right kinds of food is important.

Stocking the fridge with a mix of their favourite sweets and healthy snacks is the way to go.

Also, making sure they’re hydrated and bringing water into the exams is key.

Anxiety often makes us forget that we need these things because we’re so focused on the thing causing us stress.


It’s helpful to know your child’s exam timetable to keep in the loop and be able to talk about it with them.

They may want some extra revision the night before that you’ll be able to help with.

It’s also good to know what they need the day of the exam so you can have a checklist.

In all the chaos it’s very easy to forget highlighters, extra pens, even a calculator.

Stay positive

Those with anxiety will often focus on the negative parts of the exam: the question they didn’t understand, the information they forgot to include, etc.

While it’s important not to brush over these things completely, you should also try to highlight the positive parts and get them to remember how well they did.

Also, avoid talking about CAO points or college courses while the exams are ongoing as this can add to the pressure significantly.

Listening is important, and letting them vent about the exam or their worries can be more helpful than trying to fix them.

Putting it in perspective

The Leaving Cert may not seem like a big deal anymore, but at the time it feels like your future is depending on it.

Those with anxiety may put extra pressure on themselves to do well, especially if school is very important to them.

While we’d like to tell them that it’s not the end of the world, anyone with anxiety knows that this isn’t the most helpful thing to say.

Therefore, the best thing to do is be there for them and encourage them at every step of the way.