A bit of stress can be good when it comes to exams – it can give you the adrenaline and drive to get you through. Too much, however, will leave you feeling exhausted, which can negatively affect your performance on the day. If you’re struggling to stay calm in the face of upcoming assessments, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to curb your exam angst.
1. Have a study plan
Rather than panicking at how much you need to learn or, worse still, cramming the night before, sit down well in advance and create a weekly study schedule. This will help you feel in control and keep your anxiety in check. Split each unit into manageable chunks and set yourself study periods of up to an hour with 5- to 10-minute breaks in between. Studying in short bursts like this will help you stay focused and boost your ability to retain information.
2. Eat the right food
Sugary snacks and caffeine often go hand-in-hand with studying. However, eating this type of food when you’re already feeling stressed is a big mistake. Not only can they increase symptoms of anxiety, they can also lead to energy slumps. Instead, choose a mix of fruit, vegetables, proteins, oily fats, and complex carbohydrates to boost brain function such as memory and concentration.
3. Keep active
A regimented study schedule can certainly take it out of you. And while it may be tempting to skip the gym in favour of the couch during your down time, it might not be in your best interest. Regular physical activity is a great way to sweat your pre-exam stress away. Exercise, whether going for a run, playing basketball, or hitting the surf, not only oxygenates your brain and improves performance, it also stimulates the release of endorphins, which increases your overall sense of well-being and reduces bodily tension.
4. Reach out to your peers
If you’re feeling stressed about your exams, you can guarantee your course-mates are too. Rather than suffering alone, reach out to them in person or through an online group or forum. This type of emotional support can help ease your concerns and keep you motivated. You could even arrange group study sessions. Sharing revision techniques and materials, and testing each other on past exam questions can aide your understanding of complex topics and boost your confidence in the lead-up to the exam.
5. Catch some sleep
leep is not only a good stress-buster, it can also improve your concentration and ability to stay focused. So, forget studying into the early hours and aim for a minimum of eight hours every night during exam time. Power naps when you’re studying can also help to refresh and relax the body and improve cognitive function, giving your brain a chance to consolidate the theory, figures, and equations you’ve just learnt.
6. Be mindful
With the prospect of your next exam looming, it can be difficult to stay calm and focused. A racing mind can seem impossible to control, but implementing some simple relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, can help. Download one of the many available mindful apps, and give it go. Most sessions are bite-sized, so they can easily fit into your busy schedule and are known to promote subtle improvements in focus and how you manage distractions. A little planning, self-care, and a few simple stress-management techniques will help you through.