Top ten tips to help you cope with stress during exam season
Top ten tips to help you cope with stress during exam season
As you may, or may not be aware, it is Mental health awareness week, this week. This year’s theme is on Stress, so we thought it’d be great to share some top tips on how to cope with stress, especially now as it is peak exam season.
A little stress can be a good thing (wait, wait, hear us out for a second: it can be that extra motivational push that we need to get things done.) Sometimes though, dealing with stress (especially during exam season) can be extremely difficult. So, sit tight, maybe grab some fruit and let’s jump into the ten top tips to save you stressful exam period. You ready? Let’s go!
1. Recognise when you are stressed
Okay, let’s be honest, we’re not always aware that we are under severe stress until it gets to breaking point. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the "stress response". Your heart beats faster, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises and you breathe faster. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the ‘danger’. Which will it be?
2. Remember to breathe
First things first, we’re now aware that we are stressed, so now what? Well, set aside a couple of minutes every day to practice deep controlled breathing. Yes, of course, we all breathe (obviously) but we do so without being mindful of it. Controlled breathing helps you to calm down your body’s stress response (as we saw earlier) and bring you back to the present moment. This gives you time to think rationally and rid yourself of unhelpful thought patterns (which we all know is very common, especially during exam season) Eat, sleep and exercise well
We’re all tempted to pull all-nighters, binge on all unhealthy foods that we can find, and get little to no sleep, when we know very well that we need at least 8-9 hours per night of quality sleep. To be able to cope through the stressful period in the best possible way, you need to make sure you give your body, mind, and soul exactly what it needs to be able to perform at its best. Yes, this means sleeping well, eating well, being active for at least 30 minutes a day and making sure you’re sleeping like a baby. No excuses!
3. Set realistic goals
I know that you know exactly what we mean. Acceptance of your situation and working within the realms of what you have (what you actually have and not what you think you have) maximises your productivity to a whole new level, without the risk of burning yourself out too soon. Think of it like a marathon and not a sprint, you want to give it your controlled energy throughout and not just give it all your all in the beginning, only to be left with nothing towards the end.
4. Don’t deal with it alone
We know it can be tempting to stay alone when facing a crisis, unfortunately, this will not do you any favours. Talk to your teacher(s), talk to your friend(s), talk to your parent(s) or whoever else you feel comfortable talking to. This can be especially helpful as it takes the burden off your shoulders and share your thoughts/feelings with someone else, who may also be going through the exact same, or similar things that you are going through. Having said that, do not, I repeat do not fall into the trap of exam ‘post-mortem’. You know exactly what I mean, discussing with your friends after the exam about which answers they put and you have something completely different.
5. Pace yourself through panic
We’ve all been there, I promise you. Panicking before, during or even after an exam is very common. If you experience it at any point, stop for a moment, take four deep breaths, take a sip of water, and then go back to face the problem. Be sure to break it down into several, manageable steps. Don’t forget that there is always a rational solution to every problem, even if you can’t see it at first glance.
6. Believe in yourself
This definitely takes time. When being constantly faced with new challenges, we often forget to look back at how far we have come and how much we have already achieved. It’s better to focus on the positives, as opposed to the negatives. When you are faced with one problem, remember the 99 other problems that you have already solved and don’t believe that the one new problem cannot be solved, because 99% of the time, it can be. If you have prepared well, there should be no reason for you to worry. You can do this!
7. If you feel like you are struggling, talk to someone
Asking for a helping hand is never shameful. It can help save a life (seriously). When you are struggling, talk to friends, family, or your personal tutor about how you are feeling. You may not always believe it, but they actually care about you and want to help you. You can also professional help and support if you do not feel comfortable sharing your struggles with those around you. Remember everything you share with a professional will always be confidential!
8. Take it easy
If you are feeling uncomfortable or unwell, take it easy. Rest your eyes for 5 minutes, listen to some calming music and breathe. If you are still feeling uneasy, it is probably a good idea to get more rest and focus on your own personal recovery rather than focusing on the 'problem' i.e. exams.
9. Reward yourself
If you’ve made it this far, you should definitely reward yourself! I want you to take a moment to really think about what you really want right now. A donut, pizza, want to go for a run, want to paint, want to chat to your crush? Whatever it is that you want to do, go and do it, you’ve worked for it and you deserve it!
10. Find out what works best for you
Of course, we are all very different and we all want/need different things. Try to the find the balance in the tips we covered above and follow what works best for YOU.