Helping you get through tough times

Coping with Leaving Cert results

Not doing as well as you hoped in the Leaving Certificate can be difficult to deal with. This can especially be hard if you needed higher points to get the course you wanted.

Or it could be difficult if you feel you didn’t meet the expectations of others, such as your family or teachers.

What you might experience

grass fieldYou may feel a range of emotions after receiving your results, such as:

  • disappointment
  • happiness
  • excitement
  • stress or anxiety
  • anger
  • down or depressed
  • numbness
  • guilt
  • confusion
  • sadness
  • physical sickness
  • hopelessness/lost.

It’s especially difficult if you’re disappointed and your friends are happy with their results. There can be the sense that you’re not going to get to move on like everyone else.

Expectations and pressure from yourself, family, teachers and friends may be a positive influence by helping challenge or motivate you. But, when things haven’t gone according to plan it can be a hindrance.

If expectations or pressure about your results are too much, it’s important to talk to the person with the expectations, explaining its affect on you.

Changing your own expectations

Not getting the points you wanted gives you a chance to re-think your plans. It can be hard sometimes to figure out what you want to do, especially if you’re feeling pressure from elsewhere.

But, sometimes most of the pressure comes from ourselves. We build our expectations around a specific outcome and then feel as if we’ve failed if we don’t achieve it. Think of this as a time to get creative!

Keep in mind, there’s almost always more than one way to reach a goal.

Suggestions for managing how you feel

Even though your results may not be what you were expecting or hoping for, it doesn’t mean your future isn’t bright. Here are some suggestions to help you manage the situation:

Talk to someone outside the situation

Talking to someone such as a friend, teacher or counsellor, can be a great way of helping you exploring other options.

Talk to the person setting the unhelpful expectations

Sometimes the person might be unaware of the pressure they’ve put on you or its affects. Talk to them and explain how unhelpful this is. It might be helpful to use a phrase such as, “When you treat me like that, then this…happens”.

Challenge and reset your expectations

Sometimes it can be helpful to re-think your own expectations, helping you decide if they’re achievable. Ask yourself, “What would I suggest to a friend in this situation?”

Look at all your options

Sometimes expectations are only focused on one outcome. So if you don’t meet them you might feel disappointed or that you’ve failed. Usually, there are a number of ways to achieve a goal.

Depending on what you want to do, taking a year off for work experience could be good, plus it gives you a break from the stress of study for a while.

If your CAO choices didn’t work out, check out doing a Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses in the areas you’re interested in. Have a further look around School Leavers’ section for other options.

Take some time to relax

Sometimes a change of scenery can be helpful. Give yourself permission to do this. This might include going for a walk or listening to your favourite music, reading a book, going to the movies or whatever works for you.

Express your feelings

Writing down your feelings or keeping a journal, can help make sense of a situation and reduce the power of expectations. This also helps think about alternative solutions.

Express your feelings in a way that won’t cause damage to yourself, another person, or your computer.

This might include yelling, punching, or crying into a pillow, or dancing around the room to loud music.

Look after yourself

Expectations can lead to a lot of stress. Take time out by doing something you enjoy. Even if you don’t feel like it or have time, exercising and eating well can help. Getting plenty of sleep will always help you deal with stress better too.

If you haven’t done a lot of exercise before, start doing something small a couple of times each week, like a 15 minute walk or two or three laps of a pool. Visit your GP for a general check up to make sure there isn’t any physical problem.

Avoid drugs and alcohol

Try to avoid alcohol or other drugs (including lots of caffeine or other energy boosting drinks) as much as you can. Despite seeming like they provide a good release; this feeling is temporary and you can often feel worse afterwards.

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This article was last reviewed on 24 April 2017

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