A little bit of stress can be a good thing as it motivates us to knuckle down and work hard. But exams can make stress levels get out of hand, which can stop us from performing our best. So it’s important to address it and get it back under control.
Look out for prolonged or extreme cases of the following if you feel the work’s piling up:
- Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
- Constant tiredness
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Poor appetite
- Loss of interest in activities
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Blurred vision
If you’ve noticed three or more of the above symptoms and you’ve experienced them for a few weeks you may need to do something about your stress levels.
How to manage exam stress
- Learn to recognise when you’re stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you’re under will get things into perspective.
- Avoid comparing your abilities with your mates. Those “Oh my God I’ve only read Macbeth 17 times” conversations are such a wind up. Everyone approaches revision in different ways, so just make sure you’ve chosen the method that works best for you. Make a realistic timetable. Stick to it.
- Eat right. Treat yourself like a well honed machine – eat fresh fruit and veg and have a proper breakfasts. Fuel your brain as well as your body – no one can think straight on coffee and chocolate.
- Sleep well. Wind down before bed and don’t revise under the duvet – your bed is a sanctuary, not a desk. Get your eight hours.
- Exercise. Nothing de-stresses the mind faster than physical activity, so build it into your timetable. Being a sloth makes our mind sloppy too.
- Quit the bad habits. Cigarettes and alcohol never stopped anyone being stressed for very long.
- Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths). So if you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breath in and out through the nose, counting to five each way.
- Steer clear of any exam ‘post-mortem’. It doesn’t matter what your friend wrote for Question 3(b), it’s too late to go back and change your answers, so it will just make you worry even more.
Ultimately, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won’t last forever.
This article was first posted on BBC Advice