If you are in school or college- stress during exams is completely natural. The real problem is,when it becomes excessive to an extent that lays a negative impact on health as well as the performance in the exam.
Help is at hand though, and there are strategies you can use to alleviate stress and for a smoother time during exams. But first, let’s look at the contributors of stress.
What is exam stress?
Exam stress occurs when you feel an increased sense of panic or anxiety during or after an assessment or test of some sort. At the point of stress, your brain is not in its best state to accumulate information and can lead to a vicious cycle of more stress and less work. It can make you forget the information you learned even if you’ve put in plenty of hours in preparation.
Symptoms of Exam stress
The symptoms of test anxiety can vary considerably and range from mild to severe- from nervousness to panic attacks before or during exams.
- Physical symptoms –It includes sweating, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, fainting, sweaty palms,heart palpitations and nausea. The milder cases of test anxiety can cause ticklish sensations in the stomach, while more severe cases can cause students to become physically ill.
- Cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Students tend to avoid the testing situations or source of fear. Some students attempt to self-treat their anxiety by taking prescription medications and alcohol and as a result fall prey to substance abuse. It is reported that there are situations when many people even blank out on answers to the test, even though they were sure that they knew the answers to the questions. Other cognitive symptoms include- Negative self-talk, trouble concentrating on the test and racing thoughts etc.
- Emotional symptoms of test anxiety can include depression, low self-esteem, anger and a feeling of hopelessness. Students tend to berate or belittle themselves because of the emotional symptoms.
Actionable tips to curb exam stress
1. Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for reducing stress. This was initially created to help hospital patients, but now it is used by a broad range of people, including students.
Close your eyes and focus entirely on your breathing. Be aware of every breath and “follow” the air as it goes from your lungs and out through your nose.
You can also try lying with your back on the floor while keeping your eyes closed. “Move” your focus through your body, focusing on one area at a time. You don’t have to be sitting or lying down to practice mindfulness- you can even practice it while walking.
The more you practice mindfulness, the more you’ll start living in the present and the less stressed you’ll be.
2. Get enough sleep
Most of the students do the mistake of not getting enough sleep the day before exam. When you cut your usual hours of sleep, research shows that stress levels will tend to increase.
Practise these tips to get a good night’s rest every night:
- Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps to set your body’s internal clock and optimizes the quality of your sleep.
- Keep your regular sleeping hours, even on weekends-Aim to keep your sleep schedule as regular as possible. If you have a late night, try taking a short nap the following day, rather than sleeping in.
- Keep your electronic devices out of your bedroom. The blue light emitted by your electronic devices (e.g. phone, tablet, computer, TV) is especially disruptive to sleep.
3. Learn and apply time management techniques
A study involving students revealed that those who had been taught time management techniques showed lower levels of exam-related anxiety than those who had not.
Effective time management includes getting enough rest and a good night’s sleep, which leaves you feeling more energized so that you’re able to focus when studying.
Here are a few tips:
- Take a break after studying for 40 to 50 minutes. For most students, working in blocks of 40 to 50 minutes helps them to be as productive as possible.
- Block out time for studying. Put it in your calendar and treat it as if it’s a fixed appointment.
- Allot time for rest: Like you allot time for studying, it’s necessary that you follow strict time for rest too. Long hours of break-less study can lower the efficiency and small breaks can boost it up.
4. Don’t multitask
Doing several tasks at once may seem like an efficient use of your time, but multitasking actually wastes time and reduces the quality of your work.
Here’s how to avoid multitasking:
- Get rid of all distractions before you start studying
- Make a list of all the tasks you need to complete for the day; work through the list one item at a time.
- Set a realistic deadline for every task on the list.
5. Not being perfect is sometimes okay
Do you sometimes feel as if you’re not good enough? Do you think that you’ll never be able to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself?
If so, you may be a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist may sound ideal, but it often causes undue stress.
These are some ways to deal with it:
- Set realistic goals instead of trying to achieve the impossible.
- Celebrate small and big successes. If you didn’t succeed on what you want to achieve, don’t be hard on yourself- set your next ideal goal.
- Make sure you take time out from studying to do things you enjoy.
Over to you
Do you use any techniques to overcome exam stress that aren’t listed in this article?
Or maybe you have a question you’d like to ask.
Let us know by leaving a comment below!