As HSC student Cristian Pagano looks at the exam paper in front of him, he feels completely relaxed. The final high school exams do not start until October, but the 17-year-old is already mentally rehearsing the nerve-racking experience through hypnosis.
In response to the stress often associated with the high pressure exams, some high school students are turning to hypnosis for help.
Fairfax Media spoke to a number of hypnotherapists from Newcastle to Thornleigh who said they had worked with HSC students recently and expected to see more in the coming weeks.
Janine Rod, a psychologist and hypnotherapist at Bondi Junction, says she is working with more than 30 HSC students.
Students are induced into a relaxed and focused state through muscle relaxation and calming suggestions spoken by the hypnotist. The initial trance is often described as being similar to meditation.
''It's almost like a daydream,'' Ms Rod said. ''So you're not wide awake or fast asleep. You're sort of in a zoned-out kind of state.''
Stress management techniques encouraged by the NSW Board of Studies include a solid study plan, regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep and study breaks.
Associate Professor Amanda Barnier from the department of cognitive science at Macquarie University said hypnosis could also be a very effective therapy tool for people suffering from anxiety. ''But it doesn't work for all people, for all problems, all of the time,'' she said.
Since visiting hypnotherapist Julie Phillips-Moore at Woollahra, Cristian says he copes better with stress and has less trouble sleeping.
''In the exams I would freak out, lose concentration and come out getting all angry,'' the year 12 student from Marrickville said. ''But now I'm able to sit there and focus and I stress a lot less. I was a bit sketchy about it at first, but I was willing to give it a try.''
Hypnotherapists say their industry is misunderstood and has been tarnished by stage hypnotism, where people are seen humiliating themselves with bizarre behaviour.
Ms Phillips-Moore says there is ''no trickery'' to hypnosis, which is made out to be something magical.
She said most people experience hypnosis many times a day, such as going on autopilot while driving.
''When you're in that daydreamy state you're accessing the subconscious mind, which is very intuitive, very imaginative and highly suggestible,'' Ms Phillips-Moore said.
Ashleigh Flanagan, who is in year 12 at St George Christian School, travelled to Newcastle to see a hypnotherapist before her recent trial exams.
''It just relaxed me and made me feel, not purely nothing, but like I had no worries and no stresses at all,'' she said.