Six Tips For Managing Stress During Exam Season
The stress of exams is a feeling most people can relate to. Even students in higher education who might expect to be accustomed to the pressure of sitting exams may still find they are susceptible to nerves and anxiety. The first thing to remember is that is normal to feel some stress during the build-up to your exams or on the day of. It would be unusual if people didn’t feel any nerves whatsoever.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to help alleviate the stress in the run-up to your exams, and on the day itself, to give yourself the best chance of success. Start by creating a revision schedule to plan your time and to help break things down into more manageable pieces. Anxiety can begin to build when you feel like you’ve got too much to do in too little time. Therefore, it’s important to take things one step, or one day at a time, as this will enable you to maintain a sense of control.
Reassess your progress at the end of each day and make sure you are happy with what you’ve got to do the following day so that you can rest and sleep well once you’ve put your books away.
Don’t overlook the power of sleep
There may be occasions when you feel the temptation to work late into the night or even the early hours of the morning. This feeling may grow the closer you get to your exams. But it’s important to maintain a sense of discipline when it comes to your sleep. An irregular sleep pattern or a general lack of sleep can limit your cognitive ability and affect your concentration and energy levels.
The hour before you go to bed is an important period which you should use to try to unwind and relax. Reading, listening to music or taking a bath are all good ways to do this and will help alleviate stress and help you sleep better.
Eat and drink well, and avoid excess alcohol or caffeine
One of the side effects of feeling stressed about your exams might be a lack of appetite or a craving for comfort foods. However, these can also affect your general mood, your concentration and energy levels, and therefore, ultimately, add to your stress. Anxiety can also be heightened by drinks that are high in caffeine so try to avoid energy drinks and excessive amounts of coffee. Meanwhile, alcohol can act as a depressant if you drink too much, so again bear that in mind when preparing for exams.
As part of your revision schedule or timetable, you might also want to factor in time to go shopping or to cook. Managing your time in this way will stop you from worrying about taking time away from your study.
A healthy body is a healthy mind
The pandemic has helped to highlight the power of exercise in improving our physical and mental well-being. During exam season it’s easy to find yourself spending extended periods indoors, sitting down without any fresh air. But it’s important to find time in your schedule to exercise even if you’re feeling stressed. A 10 or 20-minute walk can help you to refocus and feel more energised. Equally, just because you’re in the middle of exam season it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your usual hobbies and interests. If you go to the gym or play sports, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t carry on doing these things. Plus, exercising with others and being sociable can also improve mood and help you to keep things in perspective.
A problem shared is a problem halved
Try to avoid isolating yourself from friends, family and peers during your exams. It’s natural that you need some space to focus on your revision but it’s important to stay connected with those around you. Do you have friends or peers you can share your experiences with or talk about how you’re feeling? If they’re also preparing for exams, then there’s a very good chance they’ll be feeling similar to you. Vocalising any anxieties you may have can have a positive impact on your outlook.
Avoid any last-minute stress on the day
To reduce any last-minute nerves ensure you are well-prepared on the day of your exams. Plan your journey in advance and make sure you’ve left enough time for any unexpected delays if driving or travelling by public transport. Equally, you don’t want to give yourself too much to do before you leave for your exam. Getting organised the night before will minimise any sense of panic on the day.
You might want to read over some final notes on the day of the exam but avoid trying to cram revision in during the final few hours. You want to arrive feeling like you’ve done all that you can and are well prepared. This will help you to stay on top of those last-minute butterflies and give you the best chance of doing yourself justice.