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Testing Tics

Posted Mon 4th Jul 2016 at 09:53
by Charlotte Rushton


17 year old Charlotte Rushton talks about her experiences with exams, stress and confidence, and shares some helpful tips for coping with exam season and TS.

For young people, May and June can be the most stressful months of the year. You might think this is slightly contradictory – after all, summer has arrived, with longer and warmer days, and the summer holidays are nearly upon us. However, with those dreams of lazy days sitting by the pool comes the inevitability of exams. For people aged fourteen to twenty-one – and the age bracket is lengthening every year – the anxiety and stress from being tested on the knowledge you have gathered in the last however many years can be very hard to deal with. If you add this pressure to having to deal with Tourette’s every day, life can seem to be impossible. So, in this blog post, my first one for Tourette’s Action, I will talk about my own experiences with exams, stress and confidence, as well as helpful tips I have gathered for exam season.

Tics love to be difficult. For me, as well as many others, they get worse not only when I am feeling stressed, but also when I am relaxed. Through trial and error, my family and I have found the happy medium in which my tics are, on the whole, much more manageable. This doesn’t involve the conventional ideas of taking a bath, or watching telly. Instead, it involves me being active, but not by doing a stressful activity, such as school work or something with a deadline. My brain needs to stay stimulated, so activities such as writing, exercising, reading or baking are perfect. Without these relaxing activities, no one would be able to be productive or be able to think logically, thus resulting in actually feeling more stressed. For a Tourette’s sufferer, this relaxation becomes even more crucial.
As much as relaxing is an important part of life, work is unavoidable. Whatever stage a person is at in life, work, and the consequential stress, is unavoidable. However, by finding ways to cope with these anxious feelings, one can maximise their productivity and happiness. I have found that keeping small numbers of manageable tasks and goals at one time is a fantastic way of reminding yourself of how well you are doing, as well as limiting stress and maximising your productivity and prospects. Lists are a great way of doing this; they keep you focused, and it is a very satisfying feeling when you tick a task off!

Of course, no matter how good one becomes at controlling stress, there are going to be times when stress finds a way to make an impact on you. And if that does happen, no big deal! It’s how someone picks themselves up from a disappointment, stress related or not, that defines them. For example, I have just sat my AS levels, exams which can form 50% of my final grades. Seventy percent of the time, I kept my stress, and therefore tics, under control, and sat each of my exams without a problem. However, the night before one of the exams of my favourite subject, I had, what could be called, a tic attack. It left me exhausted from lack of sleep and severe tics. I was unable to sit the exam, even though I tried, as I couldn’t sit down, write, or relax into the exam. This happened the next day for two more exams, so in total I didn’t sit three exams. While this could be seen as a disaster – after all, exams at the stage I am at are important – I didn’t let it throw me, and this allowed me to be in a good state of mind and tic control to sit my last exam successfully. One exam result, or even not sitting three, is really not the end of the world, and there are so many things that are more important in life.

Stress is a horrible thing, but is simultaneously the exact thing all humans need. Without stress, we would never feel compelled to further ourselves, whether that means working that little bit harder to earn a promotion at work, a grade at school or, most importantly, achieving happiness. So, next time you feel stressed, instead of focusing on those generalised negative thoughts, think of how you can use the stress you are feeling to your own advantage. Show your stress who is the boss, and each time you overcome your stress, you are weakening your anxiety’s grip.

Thank you for reading, I will be blogging monthly for Tourette’s Action. I also have a blog dedicated to life with Tourette’s and all things surrounding it. You can find it here. Please do have a read of my other blog posts, and leave any comments!

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