Letting exam stress get you down? These top tips from PleaseTalk.org will have you relaxed and ready in no time.
"That assignment that was ages away is suddenly due tomorrow, and there are at least 4 more that are due next week; on top of me trying to work every spare minute I can to cover my bills. Who ever said college life was great must have been lying! I am so stressed right now instead of being able to tackle my workload all I want to do is curl up under the duvet and hide and don’t even mention EXAMS!."
Does this sound familiar?
This time of year is very stressful for students, no matter how organised you are. The fear and anxiety can creep in and and start to cripple you. It is getting harder to focus and all of a sudden you are so overwhelmed and stressed out it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel i.e. summer.
But stop and take a breath! You can do this. You just need help to take perspective of the task ahead and tackle it one step at a time.
Here are some tips to help you tackle the next few weeks while looking after your health and wellbeing;
1. Get Organised
- Identify all the tasks you need to do over the next few weeks. Put the deadlines beside each one and prioritise accordingly.
- Studying is like eating an apple; you eat it one bite at a time. Therefore, break the study into chunks, design your study plan, know what topics you need to be covering each day.
- Work with your strengths; know if you study better on your own or in a group. Know if you study better in the morning or evening or if you prefer total silence or need some music in the background. Remove distractions wherever you are.
- Most of all, schedule plenty of breaks. Research proves that we can only concentrate for 30-45mins. Take regular breaks to help you recharge and keep focused on the topic you are studying. Include one day off so you can totally switch off and have fun.
2. Keep Things in Perspective
- When starting to get overwhelming, it is good to stop and take some perspective. Remember: exams are not the end of everything, look it more of a challenge which you will get through.
- Exams don’t define you as a person or your ability; you have a lot more to offer than just academic knowledge.
- Results aren’t everything. Employers are no longer just focused on your results. They are more concerned about your attitude, whether you are a team player and what skills you have.
- After each exam, take 30 minutes to unwind and celebrate doing your best. Don’t compare with friends as you cannot change the results now. Just focus on relaxing and knowing that you have done challenging things in the past and got through them. You will get through these too.
3. Good Coping Mechanisms
- Have a good diet; eat good foods for the brain, avoid processed and sugary foods and caffeine. These actually drain you of good energy needed for concentration as it gives you that brain fog feeling.
- Eat healthy snacks regularly, keep your blood sugars regulated.
- Drink lots of water. The brain needs it so aim for 2L a day where possible.
- Get exercise and fresh air each day. You have enough time; just get out and clear your head and it will re-energise you for next round of study.
- Relaxing activities are a must. Hours of scrolling through social media is not good for the brain, this will actually drain you more. Have a bath, watch a movie. Adult colouring and puzzles are also great for helping your mind switch off. The brain is more productive when relaxed and recharged rather than coming from a place of stress and worry.
- Get quality sleep; once you finish studying, unwind and let the mind switch off. If you are still stressed and can’t sleep, write down what is worrying you. This will help the brain relax and let you go to sleep.
4. Avoid these Bad Habits
- Avoid stimulants, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs as these can affect your concentration in the long term. Also, hangovers are not productive for studying and they mess up your sleep.
- Avoid smoking as this will only increase your anxiety and tension. Plus, it will also save you a few more pennies by the end of the week.
- Avoid comfort eating; at times of stress we all reach for comfort food, however this is never a healthy habit to relieve stress. Try to make healthy options and stock up at the start of the week. The way you feed your body actually has a big impact on how the body copes with stress.
- Don’t deny the signs that you are stressed and are becoming overwhelmed. Try to tackle it head on and remember, prevention is better than reaction.
5. Surround Yourself with Supportive People
- Talk to family and good friends about how you are coping and preparing for your exams. This will help you relieve the stress and get it out of the system and will also help you keep things in perspective.
- Don’t compare yourself to your peers. It may seem like they're doing lots of study but you never know how someone is really coping. As long as you give it your truly best shot, no one else can ask for anything else. Life is just not about academic knowledge. You have so much more to offer this world.
If you are feeling distressed and feeling like you can’t cope, please reach out and talk to someone. You can find a list of on-campus and off campus supports at www.pleasetalk.org for more information.