The GCSE results are in and, against all odds, it looks as though our young people have excelled themselves. Dr Kate Middleton offers practical tips to get their endorphins going and remind them of the bigger picture, whether they have passed or failed


This has been an incredibly tense year for students of all ages, but particularly for those navigating exams under such unusual circumstances, and amid continuing uncertainty and anxiety-provoking media reports.

This week has seen the final conclusion to all the drama, and it isn’t surprising that, as their minds move to results, many students have seen some of that old stress and anxiety resurface. We all have a debt of events to process in our minds from the duration of the pandemic, and when events in the present trigger unresolved experiences from the past, that will bring a flare of emotion designed to divert attention and stimulate the analytical parts of the mind to work through what has happened. And of course, with the question of how results will go, that adds to the nervousness of this moment, especially for those with next steps – such as college places – waiting on the confirmation of grades attained.

Get those endorphins going

Don’t be tempted to deny or downscale their emotions. Instead, acknowledge what they are feeling and the inevitable tension, but help them feel empowered and equipped to manage it. Think about practical steps to pass the time and dissipate anxious tension: the best options are those that trigger endorphins – the brain’s natural ‘happy hormones’ – and counteract the physiological spike stress can cause.

Endorphins can be triggered through:

1. Moderate exercise (enough to be a bit out of puff) for at least 30 mins.

2. Connecting with friends or people they love. Really feeling understood and that sense of ‘meeting of minds’ can get the endorphins going.

3. Producing a sense of awe. A sense of being part of something bigger changes our perspective. Try connecting with nature. Find a beautiful view, watch the sun set, go cloud watching or count the stars.

Grades do not define us

And of course, whatever their results are, make sure they know that in a world obsessed with achievement and ‘success’, their identity does not depend on these grades. This is an amazing generation full of energy, creativity and a fresh outlook on so many aspects of life. Encourage them to know how unique they are and celebrate the other parts of their lives at a time when it can feel like it is all about those exams.

Pictured are (left to right) GCSE students Zaynab Hashim and Zelika Wilson celebrating their results. Picture by Simon Hadley/ Alamy