Dealing with exam stress

Posted on 20 May 2019,   0 Comments
Originally published for the South Wales Argus
It’s no secret that exams are stressful times. But the good news is that the stress of exam season won’t last forever. And whatever happens in there or with your results, you have options. You’ve just gotta give it your best shot. And there’s a few lil secrets for helping you do that:

1 – Revise in different places.

If I asked you to close your eyes and describe all the different rooms in your house, I bet you could do it pretty well. So if you try and learn different things in different rooms, you can picture that room without having to think about it, and then in theory, you should be able to remember the stuff you learned in that space too. So smash some science in the kitchen, a bit of maths in the bathroom.
Bonus points for if you can do it outside. Connecting with nature is super important for your mental health, so if you can spend as much time as possible outside, you’re more likely to be more chilled as you revise. Speaking of..

2 – Take breaks & remember that naps are important.

The pomodoro technique is class. It’s basically revise/work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break to do something else. Rinse and repeat. This is good cuz it gives you the chance to get a solid chunk of work done, and then help your brain rest and process everything you’ve just put into it. Think of it like having a lil break between your main and your dessert.
Plus. Sleep is super important so if you’re able to have a short nap for no more than 45 minutes, do it! Your body will thank you, your brain will have more time to soak everything up, and you reduce the risk of burning yourself out.

3 – Use positive affirmations.

I’m a big fan of this in general. If you say something enough you start to believe it, and if you believe it enough you start to become it. This is true for both the positive and the negative things we tell ourselves. Whether that’s physical attributes, personality traits or just the fact that you’re learning and getting better. Choose to say nice things and positive things to yourself. Saying stuff like “I’m becoming more focussed” or “I’m getting better at taking exams” to yourself every day in the mirror will mean you start to believe yourself and then you’ll start to become it.
Apply this too to your general personality/physical traits too and watch yourself grow and become more confident. (Oh, and don’t worry about how it looks, talking to yourself in the mirror; this is for you, ya legend, and no-one else).

4 – Write down everything you’re worried about.

There was an experiment once where they got people doing exams to write down the things they were worried about before they took the test. The people who wrote down their fears did significantly better on their exams than the people who didn’t. I like this idea too because it works for general mental health – writing down all the worries/stresses/fears that are pinging round in your head makes them more real, and manageable rather than building them up in your mind. That then allows you to actually use your brainpower on smashing the exam rather than worrying about the things in your mind.
As a bonus on this point too – I always find it helpful to read through all the questions on an exam, and then you can pick out the ones you know you can answer, and the ones you’ll need a little more time to think about. Chuck down bullet points on every question as you flick through too, and then you can still get some marks for knowing your stuff even if you run out of time. Boom.

5 – And then just in general, I recommend finding your thing

Find the stuff you really enjoy that helps you relax and unwind, and then consciously doing that. So for example, I love playing video games. But there’s a difference between me being bored, just mindlessly playing ‘Apex Legends’, and actively telling myself that I’m allowed 30 mins or an hour of PS4 time as “me” time before getting back to whatever I need to do. When I’m consciously doing it for me, and giving myself a break, I feel much better than if I’m just doing it cuz there’s nothing else to do. Same activity, different outcomes.
So remind yourself why you’re doing the thing you love. Maybe that’s exercising, maybe it’s having a cuppa, maybe it’s listening to that banging playlist. It’s about finding what works for you.

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