Coping with Exam Stress

Coping with Exam Stress

There’s no doubt that the exam season can create high levels of stress. Learn how to cope well so you can excel!

The minute you hear the word ‘exams’, does your heart start pounding faster? Do your palms suddenly get sweaty?
There’s no doubt you feel a lot of pressure to excel in your studies. This pressure may be coming from your teachers, parents and even your peers.

Exams may not be fun but unfortunately, no potion or magic wand will make them disappear. They’re present throughout your student years and possibly even in your working life if you opt for further studies or professional training.

However, there are many benefits to sitting for exams. You will learn to be disciplined and responsible as you will need to study to achieve good grades. Believe it or not, exams can also teach you a lot about how to cope with stress.
While it is absolutely normal to feel stressed during exams, it is important that you do not allow your emotions to get out of control. A little bit of stress may be good as it helps to motivate you but too much stress can affect your performance (check out the My Stress checklist to find out if you’re experiencing symptoms of stress). Here are some effective yet simple steps you can take to cope with exam stress.

Tip #1: Don’t wait until the last minute!
This sounds cliché and you may have already heard this advice from your parents and teachers. However, there’s a very good reason why they’ve given you this advice. Studying for your exams at the very last minute will not do you any good. Trying to cram a whole textbook into your mind, one night before the exam, will make you panic and you will most likely not be able to absorb all the information that you need (or any for that matter!).

Instead, make sure you plan ahead. School and college exam schedules are sent out in advance so you’ll know when to expect them. Plan backwards from your examination date so you can allocate enough hours or days to study your exam syllabus comfortably. Focus on studying the syllabus bit by bit. This is to ensure that you understand every point. Understanding the facts will certainly help you to remember them better and you can apply them when sitting for the exam.

Tip #2: Don’t compare
Just because your classmate read through his textbook 5 times and you’ve only read it twice, doesn’t mean that he’ll do better. Stop comparing yourself with your peers. Remember, everyone has different methods of studying and revising. It could be that your classmate needs to study more because he has difficulty understanding a specific subject. You, on the other hand, may have a natural talent for that subject.

Instead of comparing yourself with others, you should understand and pick the revision method that works best for you. For example, studying after a meal might not be best for you as you feel sleepy or perhaps you’ve realised that revising your syllabus before bed is best because you’re able to concentrate better. Once you’ve identified the best method, stick to it

Tip #3: Eat right
Eating nutritious and healthy meals helps to fuel your brain and body so you will feel fresh and be able to think better. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as they’re rich in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Although it may be tempting, you should avoid processed or deep fried food as it contains high fat and calorie content.
Make it a priority to eat right. This will also help to keep illnesses at bay. This way, you will not need to worry about falling ill or not being able to concentrate well. You should also make sure that you eat a healthy breakfast everyday. A study published in the journal Appetite found that students who skipped breakfast less attention power than those who ate breakfast.

Tip #4: Talk to someone
When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, don’t keep mum about it. Speak to a trusted friend, teacher, parent, sibling or your school counsellor. They can help you put things into perspective. Sharing your concerns and worries with others gives you emotional relief. By doing so, the people around you will understand you better and give you the support and guidance that you need.

Exams are an important part of your life but it’s not the only part that’s important. While at times, it feels like it’s the end of the road or you feel like giving up, remember that there is life after exams! Coping and eliminating unnecessary exam stress can help you to focus better and excel.

My Exam Stress Checklist
It is important to get to know and identify the signs of exam stress. By knowing that you are stressed, you can take the necessary steps to unwind. Tick the checklist below for every symptom that you experience.
● Feeling constantly tired
● No appetite or poor appetite
● Loss of interest in routine activities or hobbies
● Difficulty sleeping
● Difficulty waking up in the morning
● Increased heart rate
● Increased anxiety and irritability

If you’ve ticked more than 3 symptoms and you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks, you’ll need to manage your stress levels.

Do the 5-5 breath!
Panic can lead you to hyperventilate, which means you can only take quick, shallow breaths. If this happens, stop everything that you’re doing and sit back. Then, breathe in through your nose for five counts and breathe out through your nose for five counts.

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