How to Cope With Exam Stress
Exams and intense study are some of the leading causes for stress and anxiety in young people today. Whatever our age, the pressure of exams or tests can be hard to cope with. Unfortunately stress and anxiety can negatively affect performance and wellbeing so helping ourselves handle this pressure is extremely beneficial.
A little bit of stress can be a good thing and a great motivator to buckle down and hit the books. But when stress levels get out of hand these few tips might help you cope.
It’s important to remember that, whilst at the time exams can feel all consuming, there is life after exams. They do not determine who you are but are simply a process we all have to go through at some point.
Practice mindfulness, perspective and positive visualisation in the run up to a stressful exam. Try to avoid negative thought loops. Remain detached and logical where possible and manage any situations that you know trigger stress for you.
Let go of anything you can’t change – such as what topics will appear on the exam – and focus on what you can do to prepare.
Start as early as possible and make sure you know what is expected of you. What exams do you have and when? What do you need to learn before then? Check your understanding with tutors if necessary to prevent any confusion on the day.
Next, make a plan giving all your subjects equal time. Don’t be tempted to spend more time on the subject you enjoy most and neglect the trickier ones. Set a clear schedule and follow it as best you can, but remember, be flexible if you have to. Sometimes things change and it’s not worth punishing yourself about the fact that your schedule has to change slightly. Just reassess and get back on track.
Make sure you allow enough time for frequent breaks and fun. We can only focus for so long on study. After about 45 minutes, we start to lose our ability to process the information as well so regular breaks are key. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Good & Bad Habits
Study in a quiet room that allows full concentration. Some research suggests that a phenomenon called “context dependent memory” means if you study under exam like conditions you’ll be more likely to remember key information on the day.
Try not to focus on what other people say they’re doing. Concentrate on what works for you. Some people prefer words, some are more visual, whilst others learn from discussion.
Eat well, drink plenty of water and sleep well. Your brain needs all these things to process the information you are giving it. If you find yourself feeling tense, exercise can help the body recover. Try to avoid excessive caffeine or bad habits including nicotine or alcohol.
Reward yourself for meeting your targets. Break down goals into small manageable chunks rather than focusing on something too big and daunting.
On the day, have a good breakfast, arrive early and read the paper carefully. Stay calm and breathe deeply. Try to keep your mind and body relaxed.
If you struggle with revision and study you may want to seek support from a tutor or a coaching session may help you focus and plan more effectively.
Hypnotherapy is also an effective therapy to help deal with stress, promoting positivity and calmness.
For more information about how I can help with your exams or study stress please do get in touch