Four Physical Symptoms of Stress: Grade 12 Learners and National Senior Certificate Examination

On this page we describe four physical symptoms of stress which could make it difficult for grade 12 learners to effectively study for their national senior certificate examination.

For Grade 12 learners approaching their National Senior Certificate examination, stress can manifest in several physical symptoms that may hinder their ability to study effectively:

  1. Headaches: Stress often causes tension headaches, making it difficult for learners to concentrate on their studies.
  2. Sleep Disturbances: High levels of stress can lead to insomnia or poor sleep quality, leaving students tired and unable to focus during study sessions.
  3. Stomach Problems: Stress can upset the digestive system, leading to symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, or stomach cramps, which can be distracting and uncomfortable while trying to study.
  4. Muscle Tension and Pain: Chronic stress can cause muscles to become tense and sore, especially in the neck and shoulders, making it challenging for learners to sit and study for long periods.

Four Physical Symptoms of Stress: Grade 12 Learners and National Senior Certificate Examination


Under the weight of preparing for the National Senior Certificate examination, Grade 12 learners may experience tension headaches. These headaches often feel like a tight band around the forehead and can be both distracting and debilitating. For example, a student spending hours poring over textbooks and notes might find themselves grappling with a persistent headache, making it nearly impossible to focus on the material in front of them.

Sleep Disturbances

The stress associated with upcoming exams can wreak havoc on a student’s sleep patterns. Whether it’s difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless nights, sleep disturbances leave learners fatigued and unable to concentrate effectively on their studies. Imagine a learner lying in bed, anxious about the next day’s study goals, only to find themselves tossing and turning, unable to achieve the restorative sleep needed to tackle their revision effectively.

Stomach Problems

Stress has a profound impact on the digestive system. Grade 12 students might find themselves dealing with stomach issues such as nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or stomach cramps as the exam period approaches. For instance, a learner might feel too nauseous to eat a proper meal before a study session, leading to decreased energy levels and difficulty concentrating on their studies.

Muscle Tension and Pain

Chronic stress can lead to muscle tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and back. This tension can evolve into soreness and pain, making it uncomfortable for students to sit and study for extended periods. Consider a student who, after studying at a desk for several hours, begins to feel significant discomfort in their shoulders and back, forcing them to take frequent breaks and thus disrupting their study rhythm.

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