During the exam period, stress can become even harder to manage and even more likely to take over your thoughts. Stress can become hard to deal with, so these tips are designed to help you combat your stress and keep a cool head, not just during exams but also in any demanding period in your life.
1) Recognise your stress signals
Or, in other words, the symptoms of and reactions to stress that you experience. For some people, this may involve becoming unusually snappy to those around you, while for others it might be isolating yourself and avoiding your friends or housemates. Whatever your reaction might be, if you can begin to see how you respond to stressful situations, then you will be able to recognise these symptoms as they occur and combat them faster.
2) Determine what is causing your stress
For most of us during the exam period, stress is likely to stem from revision and worrying about exams. Beyond just that, however, it’s worth pin-pointing exactly what it is that’s causing your stress. There are likely to be particular exams or tasks that are causing more stress than others and so whatever it is, finding out specifically what’s worrying you will enable you face it head on rather than running away from it or feeling too absorbed by overall pressure.
It might sound boring, but in terms of combatting stress, planning and sorting through each issue and task will allow you to easily isolate individual problems in your mind and find a way to address them. In terms of revision, plan out what you need to revise in order of priority; the same goes for any other tasks you need to complete. Avoid shying away from the tasks that you least want to do simply because of the stress attached to them. Once they’re completed, you’ll not only feel a sense of accomplishment, you’ll also know that you’ve addressed something you could have otherwise avoided and prevented further stress from building up. This is going to be really key in avoiding last minute, mind-melting cramming before a deadline rolls around. Make sure, however, that you avoid over-planning; organising your time is important as it prevents it from slipping away from you, but don’t force yourself to schedule too much or too far in advance as it’s likely to give you too much to keep track of. Simply plan your day as it comes and do your very best to complete each task as well as you can.
4) Give yourself breaks
As important as it is to dedicate yourself to your work it’s equally important to give yourself breaks to let off steam and let your mind rest. Exercise is a great way to get yourself outside of your room – or wherever you’ve been holed up working – for some fresh air and to get your endorphins pumping. This will help to boost your mood as well. Yoga is also an effective way to let your mind detach from working and focus on your breathing, allowing you to relax and clear your head. Even just taking the time to stretch out tight muscles is beneficial and, if meditation is a bit too much for you, then just try taking a few, long, deep breaths, picturing your breath moving in and out of your body, to help to clear your mind and let you re-focus. Whatever it is that works for you, make the time to include it in your day to prevent an exhaustingly endless cycle of work and keep your stress levels at bay.
5) Reward yourself
This is a perfect way to motivate yourself in your work during any dips in your focus, as well as reminding yourself that hard work deserves a reward. Something as simple as listening to music, planning film nights, taking a tea break, treating yourself to your favourite food or just catching up with friends is all you need. The temptation with any stressful period of work is to let yourself feel guilty for any time away from it, but it’s important to remember that constant work is much more likely to wear you down and cause more damage. Let your mind detach completely when you take these breaks and you’ll feel much more at ease when you return. Similarly, getting enough sleep is crucial to helping you to de-stress. Avoid the temptation to stay up late by planning your day’s work and giving yourself a full night’s sleep to recuperate and feel invigorated for the next day.
6) Talk to people
The worst thing that you could do for yourself if you’re struggling during periods of stress is to try and deal with it alone. Simply talking to someone about what is bothering you will help so much more than attempting to bottle up any fears and worries you may have, and talking through your concerns can make things clearer in your own mind as well. Don’t ever feel ashamed to seek support from your friends, family or university councillors – everyone can relate to feelings of stress and creating a support network for yourself is a hugely beneficial way to prevent it from getting out of control.
Finally, in terms of exams, remember that it’s likely you know much more than you think and you’ll surprise yourself with how much you can remember once you’re actually sitting them, so have some faith in your abilities. No matter how stressful what you’re going through may seem, nothing lasts forever, even if it it might feel that way in the midst of it, so follow these tips, stay calm and trust yourself – you can do this!