Exams and stress articles

Stress levels can be higher than normal when preparing for exams. While some stress can help you to stay motivated and focused, too much can be unhelpful.

Aiming for success second time around

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Tips to boost your exam performance

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Maximising your study time

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 Stress and anxiety are often mentioned together, but they’re not the same thing. In fact, anxiety can be caused by stress – it’s what you feel when you’re uneasy about something, when you worry or when you’re afraid.Most people experience some level of anxiety from time to time. In many situations, feeling anxious is perfectly normal – if you’re taking your driving test, for instance, or going for a job interview. But once the situation has passed, your anxiety should disappear too. It becomes more of an issue when you feel overwhelmed by anxiety on a more frequent basis – or all the time.Anxiety can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, such as:Faster breathing or shortness of breathIncreased or irregular heart rateFeeling tired but not being able to sleepLight-headedness or dizzinessHeadacheFeeling restless, unable to concentrateSweating or having hot flushesFeeling constantly on edgeFearing the worst (having a sense of dread)Feeling that other people are looking at youNot being able to stop thinking about negative thingsNot being able to motivate yourself Anxiety levelsMild anxietyGenerally speaking, mild anxiety is the type that most of us experience on a day-to-day basis during certain situations. You may have an uneasy feeling in your stomach, and you may feel your pulse increase slightly. But anxiety at this level can also be beneficial, as it can help you to focus and increases your alertness.Moderate anxietyModerate anxiety is similar to mild anxiety but can become more severe and overwhelming, making you feel more nervous and agitated.Moderate anxiety can mean you place your complete attention on the thing or situation that’s making you feel anxious and ignore everything else around you. You may start to experience stronger physical and emotional anxiety symptoms such as muscle tension, sweaty palms, a shaky voice, back pain and changes in your sleep pattern. Emotionally you may feel more sensitive and excited than normal, and you may also feel less confident.Severe anxietySevere anxiety is the highest level, when you stop being able to think rationally and experience severe panic. You may feel afraid and confused, agitated, withdrawn and you may also find it difficult to think clearly. Your breathing may quicken, and you may start to perspire while your muscles will feel very tense.Anxiety disordersThere are also several anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Unlike being anxious about a specific thing or situation, GAD is when you feel anxious about lots of different issues, often for no good reason.Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specific type of anxiety, where you feel very stressed or fearful about something traumatic that’s happened to you.Panic disorderPanic disorder is when you have panic attacks on a regular basis. A panic attack can make you feel nauseated, sweaty, shaky and lightheaded, and you may feel your heart beating very quickly or irregularly (palpitations). They may not be harmful in a physical sense, but panic attacks can be very frightening.PhobiasPhobias are also a type of anxiety disorder. You may have a phobia when you have an overwhelming or exaggerated fear of something that normally shouldn’t be a problem. Depending on what type of phobia you have, it can seriously affect your daily life as well as cause a great deal of distress.Social anxiety disorder – or social phobia – is a type of phobia where you have an intense fear of social situations.If you think you may have the symptoms of an anxiety disorder or if anxiety is a constant issue in your life, it’s important to get the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. CA Support has a confidential listening service and is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ieThis article was kindly provided by CABA

Sep 30, 2020

When I failed SFMA and Financial Reporting, it felt like an unexpected break-up. I hadn’t anticipated failing. All that time invested in study and now I had to start all over again!Work smarter, not harderBut that’s just it- you’ve already put in the hard work and laid the foundation. You are not starting from scratch. This time round it’s about working smarter, not harder. Use your time and energy wisely.Take a few days for yourself if you need to. It is a form of loss and can be a very lonely time. Talk things through with supportive people, indulge in some self-care and do things that make you happy.I remember the Partner in my Department calling me at the time and encouraging me to “get back up on the horse!”. That’s what I did and know that you can, too.Ways to get back on trackCapitalise on the time and energy you’ve already invested studying by preparing for the repeat in the following ways:Boost your confidence. It’s helpful to write down all of your achievements to date, as far back as you can remember. Look at them- aren’t you proud? Reflect on your study routine and exam technique. Be honest with yourself:-What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of?-What should you do differently?-What can you start doing?-What must you stop doing altogether?  You know best! What resources are available to help you?You are not on your own with this challenge. Utilise the resources available to you, which include:-          Role models- Senior colleagues may surprise you by sharing their stories of failure with you. When I realised that others ahead of me had failed, I felt less alone and also realised that I could still advance in my career even after this set-back. You can learn from others how they achieved success when it seemed impossible. -          Additional classes and grinds-Taking additional classes run by Chartered Accountants Ireland was really valuable. A group of us who were repeating also arranged a day of grinds which was very beneficial. -          Help from colleagues and peers- Reach out to people who have sat exams recently. I received a great deal of support from colleagues the year ahead of me when I struggled with past paper questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Most people will be happy to assist, as they’ve been there too! You might also arrange calls and study sessions with others who are repeating where you can share thoughts. -          CA support- CA Support are here to assist you and can be contacted on email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294.  There are also other video supports and articles available on our site.  Ease back into study by reading relevant articles that make the subject come to life for you and keep it interesting. Make it an activity that you enjoy and build your confidence back up this way! While the process is still fresh in your mind, going through as many sample questions and past papers as you can may be easier than immediately going back to the text books.  Take time for you every day. Your well-being is more important than anything else, so do something that you love daily. Prioritise yourself and make sure that you eat well, get enough exercise, fresh air and rest. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to have tunnel vision when in study-mode.And finally…This experience is a tough one to go through. It might feel very unfair, stressful and worrying. Please know that even if it doesn’t seem like it right now, it will all come together in the end and although it sounds cliché, you will be stronger. You may become a future specialist in an area because of the additional time you’ve had to spend studying it! Opportunities can come from the most surprising places. As you continue your studies, celebrate the results that you have already achieved in your life!By Charlotte Keating. Charlotte is a Chartered Accountant and the founder of Act On It Coaching, www.actonitcoaching.comCA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie 

Sep 29, 2020

CA Support in collaboration with CASSI are delighted to announce a motivational webinar with Tony Og Regan at 1.00 on the 30th September. Tony is a keen advocate of CA Support and in this bespoke webinar will motivate and guide students onto their next challenge. During his time as a trainee and the disappointment of not passing them the first time was a huge setback. A former Galway Hurler and a Chartered Accountant, he is now also a Performance Psychology Coach. He runs his own coaching business that inspires, supports, and enables people, teams, and organisations to achieve peak wellbeing and performance. In this webinar he will concentrate on how to overcome exam setbacks- develop the key tools to deal with setbacks effectively and comeback strongerHe will share with students:Why our state of mind has an important role to play in overcoming setbacks/challengesHow elite performers in sport and business manage their state of mind in challenging situationsUnderstand what state of mind we are in right nowWhat is enabling or blocking us for moving forwardWhat are the key tools we can use to accelerate our growth from setbacks/challenges?To register click here Overcoming exam set-backsTo read more about how he coped with change and his journey. CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Sep 24, 2020

“I’m going to like you.We’re going to be friends.”…is what I said to my Management Accounting book, the week after the CAP1s. Coming out of the exam hall, I knew that I had failed that subject. I’d put in the time studying, but didn’t understand it, and counted on enough of the theory coming up to cover myself. But it didn’t. So each evening, after work, I’d sit down to study. Friends teased me for being such a nerd- the results weren’t out yet!As predicted, I’d failed- scoring 25%. I continued to tell myself that I liked the subject as I studied. September came, and so did the repeat. I was on holiday and had just finished a hot air balloon ride when the Partner called me with the result- 62%. I felt sky high again!The science part…I didn’t know it at the time, but I had been practising “Neuro-Associative Conditioning”, a human behavioural science developed by Coach Tony Robbins. It’s all about changing our attitudes to increase our likelihood of success.What’s your current association to exam success?You want it, but thoughts of “what if I fail?”, “I just don’t understand it!” “I’ll do it later…” might be stronger in your nervous system. To get the results you want requires more than positive thinking- you need to change the meaning you give to study and actually feel good about doing it- from your head to your heart, right down to your gut!There are no shortcuts to success, but here are some ways that you can re-programme your mind to facilitate it:1. Begin with the end in mindThink of the big picture and take time to question- why are you doing this? It might be painful to sit down and study when you want to do other things, but ask yourself “what pleasure is it going to bring to my life in the long term?”…greater security, increased opportunities, a sense of achievement?  Once you’ve done this:• Write down what it is that’s driving you.• Spend a few moments daily, before you start studying, imagining your ideal future and reminding yourself that what you do in the present, will help to take you there. • Really feel and visualise your success to get it ingrained in your nervous system. Get excited about it!2. Get familiar and get it out of the wayWe don’t like changing our habits. Therapist Marissa Peer notes that the mind instinctively rejects what’s unfamiliar to us and returns to the familiar. This keeps us alive, protecting us from things perceived as dangerous. But this approach doesn’t always serve us- sticking to the familiarity of studying theory didn’t work for me. Good news though- studies show that it is possible to make what we don’t want to do familiar to us. We may even end up enjoying it! You just have to start the behaviour. Do it before you get comfortable doing something else. By consistently repeating, “I will make this familiar/I will like you”, you will. You can choose how you feel about something- knowing this gives you control. Getting what you dislike doing out of the way by prioritising it is empowering.3. Mind your languageListen to the language you use to describe studying. Are the words “hate”, “painful”, or negative sound effects common?Switching to more neutral language makes the process far more manageable. Phrases like:“I am determined to be a success, and I am prioritising my studies for me and my future”, or“I am choosing to feel great about doing what I don’t want to do” are great for interrupting our mind from negative internal conversations. 4. Celebrate your winsFocusing on your reward system will instil the habit of doing what you like least first. Maybe this is the lack of guilt/feeling of accomplishment by getting it done? Take your breaks and give yourself something to look forward to. And remember…Nothing is wasted. All the work you put in now will help going forward. Keep focused on that promising future of yours as you sit down with those books in the present!CA Support are here to assist you and we can be contacted on email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294.  There are also other video supports on mindset available on our site.Article written byCharlotte Keating is a Member and Life, Business & Creativity Coach. With both trainee and managerial experience, she established Act On It Coaching to help fellow Chartered Accountants, trainees and other professionals achieve more balance and fulfilment in their lives. To get in touch or to find out more, visit www.actonitcoaching.com or contact charlotte@actonitcoaching.com

Jul 22, 2020

A problem shared is a problem halved. It might be a cliché, but it's true. When you're not feeling yourself, talking things through with someone you trust can help lighten the load. It's the first step towards taking back control of your mental wellbeing. Why does talking help? Talking about something with another person allows you to see things from a different perspective. There could be another way of looking at your situation Talking aloud can help you make sense of a problem and clarify your thoughts and feelings. When we're just turning things over and over in our own heads it can be difficult to see what's really going on Another person may offer practical advice and solutions that you hadn't considered before The simple act of being listened to often has a big impact in itself. You'll feel less alone knowing that someone is there for you. You might even discover that you're not the only one who feels the way you do Sometimes just saying something aloud is immensely relieving. You may have been carrying something around in your head for a long time and talking about it can be like setting down a heavy load. You might notice your whole body relaxing as you start to talk Opening up to friends and family might encourage and empower others to do the same Talking openly about how you feel might seem awkward at first. Especially if you're not used to it. But it will get easier and become more natural the more you do it Who can you talk to? Friends and family are a great place to start. They may have already noticed that you're not quite yourself and asked if everything is ok. This can make starting a conversation a bit easier. Having said this, it's common for people to find it difficult to talk openly with friends and family, for lots of reasons. Often they're worried about upsetting people they care about, how their relationships might be affected or that they might be treated differently. And this can affect how honest and open you are about the reality of your situation. Sometimes it's easier to be more honest with someone you don't know. That's where counselling can help. Counselling, or talking therapy, is a chance for you to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. It offers you a safe space and dedicated time to talk openly about you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. And the real impact they have. A counsellor can offer an impartial perspective on what might be a very complex and intense situation. As someone who's not involved and with no personal agenda, they may be able to help you work through and understand things in ways that your friends and family can't. Ask us about counselling CA Support can arrange for you to work with a professional counsellor face-to-face, over the phone or online.  Take the first step You might have avoided opening up in the past, simply because you don't know where to start. How can you possibly articulate all the thoughts and feelings going round and round in your head? But there's no set script you have to follow, and no rush to get it all out at once. When you contact CA Support, our trained advisors will help you find the right words. And after that first step, you'll have the support of a professional counsellor to help you through the rest of the process. You won't be on your own. You can talk to an advisor in complete confidence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 01 637 7342 to talk to one of the team. We are here for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Aug 08, 2019

How much of our time and mental energy do we spend dwelling on things that have already happened or worrying about the future? For many of us, mentally multi-tasking and having our brain in three places at once is a reality of daily life. But it often means we miss out on what's happening in the here and now. This is bad for our mental wellbeing in a number of ways. By dwelling on things we can't change or control, we are more likely to feel anxious, insecure or uncertain. Focusing on the present, on the other hand, allows us to channel our energy into the things we can control. When we're distracted, we're less able to concentrate and focus on the task in front of us. How many times have you walked upstairs and forgotten why you're there? By paying attention to the present, we increase our effectiveness and productivity. In addition, when our minds are somewhere else, we miss out on all the positive things that are happening right in front of us. Being present in a moment allows you to enjoy everything it has to offer. The key to breaking this cycle is mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of the here and now, of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and your surroundings. Using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga, it can help you become more aware of the present moment, rather than worrying about what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow. Mindfulness exercises Here are three mindfulness exercises you can try in your own time, at home or at work. 1-minute meditation - This quick and simple breathing exercise is useful anywhere, anytime you need to pause and refocus. 3-minute breathing - This quick mindful breathing exercise can help you pause, regain control and refocus on the here and now. 10-minute body scan - How are you feeling? Reconnect with your body and your senses with this 10-minute full body scan Being present throughout your day Like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice. But the more you do it, the easier you will find it to apply the principle of being present to moments throughout your day. When you're eating... Whether it's in front of the telly at home or sat behind a desk at work, many of us eat throughout the day simply to satisfy hunger pangs before moving on to the next thing we need to do. But eating can be an opportunity to experience real sensations of joy and pleasure. The next time you sit down to eat try this mindful eating exercise. What difference do you notice? When you're walking... In the daily rush, walking is usually just a means of getting from A to B and on to C. But it could be an opportunity to exercise our curiosity and heighten our senses. By becoming aware of the world around us, we're more likely to find things that make us happy, fill us with wonder or spark our imagination. Try this mindful walking exercise as part of your commute or the next time you walk to the shops. When you're listening... Even when we're mid-conversation with someone it's easy for our minds to wander off. How many times have you found yourself thinking, 'What were they just saying?' To really listen to and understand someone requires your full and undivided attention. And that means being aware of how your own thoughts and feelings might distract your attention from a conversation. Learn how to apply mindful listening techniques for more meaningful conversations and stronger relationships. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 14, 2019