How to minimise exam stress
6th May 2018
Although it might sound unconvincing, a little bit of stress can be a good thing: it can serve as a motivational push that we need to get things done. However, dealing with stress (especially during exam season) can often be a difficult thing to do. Allied to the fact that an estimated 20% of adolescents may experience mental health problems in any given year, it’s clear that we’re under more pressure than ever before. So, here are seven tips to help you through the next few weeks.
Setting aside just a couple of minutes every day to practise mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises helps you to take control of your body’s stress responses and shift attention back to the present. Overall, you’ll be giving yourself time to think rationally through any anxieties you may have and rid yourself of any unhelpful or negative thought patterns.
- Look after your physical health
To perform at your best mentally, you need to be at your best physically. Pulling all-nighters, eating a consistently poor diet and doing little to no exercise are all proven to increase symptoms of anxiety. Make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night, nutritional meals, minimal caffeine, more water and a minimum of fifteen minutes of exercise per day. You don’t have to join a gym or fill your home with unnecessary or expensive equipment. Something as simple as going for a walk will make you feel a lot better.
- Set realistic goals
Whether you have several weeks, days or hours before a particular exam, put things into perspective. Acceptance of your situation and working within the realms of what you have done so far maximises your productivity without the risk of burning yourself out. Hopefully, you’ll have been revising for a number of weeks now so “cramming” won’t be necessary!
- Work with others
In 2004, a research paper published in the journal Linguistics and Education showed that revising with peers can be an effective study technique as it allows individuals to better absorb their own notes. Furthermore, the emotional benefits of social support tend to include a better sense of confidence and autonomy. However, if you prefer to study by yourself then go for it. The most important thing is to be comfortable with what you’re doing.
- Pace yourself
Panic before, during or even after an exam is part of almost every student’s DNA. If you experience it at any point, take five deep breaths, hydrate yourself and then return to the problem at hand, being sure to break it down into several manageable chunks. Remember that there is usually a rational solution to every problem, even if you can’t see it at first glance.
- Believe in yourself
When faced with what seem like insurmountable challenges, we often forget to look back at how far we have come and how much we have already achieved. If you’ve prepared well up to this point, there should be no reason for you to worry. When experiencing a negative thought, try to replace it with a positive one. For example, instead of thinking ‘If I don’t get an A grade I am a failure’, think ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for me to demonstrate my capabilities.’ You can do this!
- Talk to someone
If you feel like you are struggling then there is no shame in asking for help. Talk to friends, family, teachers or your tutor about how you are feeling. In the most extreme cases, there are lots of places that offer professional help and support.
Exam stress is justified and perfectly natural. Remember – diamonds are formed under extreme pressure! What does that mean? In short, getting the most out of yourself involves hard work…but, there are things you can do to minimise those stress levels and feel confident when walking into the exam hall.
Good luck, everyone!