Dave chats with Headspaces Shelagh Curtain Community Health Educator about exams and anxiety
Thousands of young Australians are finishing school and university exams across the country,
but for many, the anxiety doesn’t stop when the pens are down.
headspace clinicians encounter many young people playing the stressful waiting game for their final
exam results or university offers.
The National Youth Mental Health Foundation has issued a timely reminder that during this challenging
time anxiety can be heightened.
This period of waiting and worrying can significantly affect a young person’s mental health and
Senior Clinical Advisor at headspace Simon Dodd said during this time, anxiety is common and can
affect many people including those who are normally on top of life’s challenges.
“Anxiety becomes a problem when it occurs frequently, feels overwhelming and interferes with daily
functioning,” Mr Dodd said.
“For some people, if left untreated, anxiety disorders can develop into other mental health difficulties
and drugs and alcohol.”
People who believe they have an anxiety disorder should visit a doctor, or seek professional advice.
headspace Youth Advocate Niharika Hiremath, 23, said she noticed her anxiety peaked around exam
time but learnt ways to manage it and support herself.
“It becomes easy to prioritise study, which is great as you want to be working hard. But then you look
back and realise you haven’t had more than four hours sleep a night in the past few weeks,” she said.
“To help manage anxiety, it’s about identifying those things you know you’re prone to and doing
something before it gets worse. Having external support when your internal support and motivation is
lacking is important. Support from family, friends and places like headspace is great.”
You can read Niharika’s full story below.
Some tips for helping with anxiety:
• Speak up: It’s a good idea to talk to someone that you trust about how you are feeling. You
might choose to talk with your family or friends, a teacher or coach, or your mob or Elders.
• Eating well and getting good sleep are important starting points.
ABN 26 137 533 843 headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health
• Up your activity and exercise: Being active can have a huge impact on your anxiety levels. In
fact, research suggests that regular exercise can be one of the best things you can do to reduce
your daily anxiety levels. So try to get your heart rate up for 30 minutes at least three times a
• Increase your relaxation: Find ways that help you to feel more relaxed and less tense. Breathing
exercises are simple but really effective relaxation strategies. Mindfulness activities, listening to
music and reconnecting with people or country can also help.
• Notice your use of alcohol or drugs: Try to avoid, or at least limit, your use of alcohol and other
drugs. While these things might help you to feel good in the short term, they can make you feel
much worse in the longer term.
• Anxiety is one of the two most common problems affecting young people and the most common
presenting issue at headspace centres nationwide
• It’s estimated one in five females and one in ten males aged between 16 and 24 years old are
affected by anxiety.
• Young people may be more likely to experience anxiety if they have another mental health
issue, such as depression.
• Early intervention is important in reducing the negative impact anxiety can have.
Check out our anxiety factsheet here: headspace.org.au/young-people/understanding-anxiety-for-
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, visit headspace.org.au to find your nearest