Sports psychologist’s top tips for coping with A level results pressure

Tuesday 14 August 2012
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Clearing 2012
University of Salford sports psychologist Dr Tom Fawcett is no stranger to helping people deal with pressure situations. Here are his top ten tips to follow in case you haven’t got the results you wanted and need to go through Clearing.

He’s used these techniques at with English teams at the Commonwealth Games and darts champion Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor, so have a read and call the University of Salford clearing helpline on 0161 295 5553 to discuss your options.

Top tips

Suffering exam failure after such a prolonged period of study is very distressing for people who have career aspirations.

The distress is fuelled by the disappointment of not reaching expectations set by others and oneself and it leaves the person with a huge sense of disappointment and failure.

Psychologically and emotionally such setbacks are very difficult to cope and deal with and many people are left in a state of distress and suffer a wide range of negative emotions and elevated anxiety which makes life very difficult.

So what can people do to alleviate the psychological and emotional distress that they find they have to cope with failure in the immediate post exam period?

Here are my top 10 tips:

1. Accept that failure is only a ‘temporary setback’- it is not long term. Re-interpret the failure to being a short term issue. It is not an Olympic failure that will take four years to correct. It can be rectified within a short period of time, but will take increased effort. Place it all in perspective.

2. View the setback as an opportunity to make you ‘mentally stronger’. Failure is what we all need to develop our strengths by targeting out limitations. Without the odd setback we do not advance and learn from our errors or mistakes. It is a necessary part of how we learn and vital for our progression and personal development. All high achievers have failed along the road to success. You are not different.

3. Shift you focus of attention from worrying about what others think of you or what others have achieved to what you need to do to ‘put it right’. A large part of the distress is worrying about what others think and not what can be done to work ahead and progress. Focus on trying again.

4. When you are ready – ask for advice as to ‘what is needed to correct the failure’. This may be hard to accept but be brave and take it on the chin’. Get specific feedback and address the issues. Listen only to those that know best.

5. Ask yourself what you can do to improve? Be honest and truthful in your own analysis of ‘where it went wrong’ and identify how much you can change to correct the next attempt.

6. Ask for advice in putting a plan together for immediate action in trying to solve the problems caused by the failure. We all need help and assistance in sorting out possible solutions.

7. Recognise that emotions are very ‘unstable’ and you will feel different the near future when things settle down. Don’t panic or make any rash decisions based on the setback. If you feel unable to cope ask for help – this is a sign of being brave not weak.

8. Be proactive and make it a priority to ‘put it right’. Consider options and put it all in perspective. Re-consider what it is you wish to do.

9. Review what you did – in terms of effort, quality study time, preparation for the exam etc. Debrief the previous performance and ‘learn from it’.

10. Realise that getting over a failure and ‘dealing with adversity’ is extremely important and it is easier to hide and do nothing than tackle it and put it right. Self determination, courage and mental resilience are developed when we approach failure head on and we learn from our setbacks. If we consider the Olympians who won medals in London they have all had lots of failures in the past but returned to win in the future. See failure as a temporary setback and time will pass to provide another opportunity to be successful. Learning to fail is one of the most important skills we have to develop and knowing you are doing something about it can provide you with a sense of purpose. When you then succeed you will feel much different and proud that you have deserved the reward.

What to do next

To find courses you can still apply for, visit our Clearing 2012 website or call 0161 295 5553

Clearing will also be running on the University’s social media sites: Twitter (#clearing or #ucasclearing) and Facebook.

You can also get advice and information direct from UCAS.