Dealing with exam stress
We all feel a little stressed and anxious before an exam, and that’s normal. It shows that you want to do well, which is a good thing!
What you don’t want to do is let stress take over, and sit in the driving seat during the exam period. It’s bad for your health and you definitely won’t be able to study well.
You must recognise when you are getting stressed. Once you are aware of how you are feeling and acting, you can take steps to reduce the anxiety. Some of the ways that exam stress shows up are:
- difficulty getting to sleep
- lack of appetite
- blurred vision
- loss of interest
- unexplained pains, and more
Look out for when these occur together, and be ready to make some changes to your routine and your mindset.
Here’s a list of ten stress-busters for exam time:
1. Develop confidence in yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it, and that you can achieve the grades that you want. If you feel like you’re making no progress, take a break, and then test yourself on what you know. If, a week later, you get a better score on the test, then you are actually improving. If not, change your study methods by using the tips in this guide.
2. Don’t compare yourself to what other people are doing. If someone else has read the textbook twelve times, you can laugh, knowing they’ve wasted their time! You know what’s best for you, so do that.
3. Eat well. Have three decent meals every day, and eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts, and drink lots of water. Dehydration can be a major problem for your brain, so keeping hydrated is important!
4. Exercise often. Even if it’s just going for a walk, getting outside in the fresh air can help you to relax and forget (even if temporarily) about your worries.
5. Reward yourself after doing a good study session. It’s important that you feel good about what you are doing, so take the time to do something you love.
6. Plan well. If you’ve got a good plan that you can stick to, then you know you’ll be ready for the exam day and you don’t need to worry about not covering everything in time.
7. Stay organised. Keep your notes all together in one folder, which is clearly labelled and kept in one place so you know where it’ll be. It’s the same with the files on your computer. If your desktop or documents folder looks cluttered or has loads of “document 1” files, it’s time to do some cleaning up and sorting out.
8. Get enough sleep. It’s crucial that you rest and allow your body to repair itself. Doing lots of all-nighters may make you feel like you’re getting somewhere, but really, it’s just an illusion.
9. Talk to someone about what’s troubling you. Often we’re all pretty stressed during exam time, so having a friend who can help you out is extremely helpful when you’re losing your cool.
10. Don’t go near substances or drugs. This includes limiting your caffeine from coffee and energy drinks, as this only provides you with a short hit which won’t last, and you’ll end up feeling more tired at the end of it. And perhaps take it easy on the alcohol during exams...
What to do before the exams
Go for a walk.
By going for a walk, you’re allowing your brain to relax and go into the zeroed-out mode, where the creativity and conceptual thinking happens. Your brain can map out all the things that you need to know for the exam. Plus, you’re going to be in the zeroed-in mode for a long time in the exam, so trying to take some time to let your mind wander is a good idea!
Exercise is also proven to increase levels of dopamine in the brain, so if you’re feeling good and con dent in yourself then you’re on your way to getting good results. Spending time reading your notes didn’t do anything before, so it’s not going to help now.
Taking a walk also removes you from everyone else who is stressing out and creating a chaotic atmosphere, which isn’t going to help you to stay calm and focused! Getting away from the pre-exam stresses is helpful so you can remember your own goals, and give yourself that last pep-talk before you start the exam.