Exam stress can be a challenging part of study – there’s no getting away from it.
And if you’re feeling the burn, it’s not always that easy to get back to a more chilled state of mind.
Katie Perrin, Head of Student Guidance and Wellbeing, tells us what you can do to cope with exam stress.
1. Look after yourself
It’s important to eat well, sleep well, take breaks and be physically active. Psychologists suggest that we can only concentrate properly for about 45 minutes at one stretch, so take regular breaks to stay refreshed.
Exercise is a great way of dealing with exam stress. Go for a walk and get some fresh air; it will help rest your mind.
You can stay alert by staying hydrated with lots of water. In between revision sessions, treat yourself by doing something you enjoy: meet up with a friend, listen to your favourite song or treat yourself to a chocolate! This will help you focus and give you something to aim towards.
2. Use relaxation techniques
It’s important to give your mind space during exam time. Relaxation techniques are a great way of coping with anxiety. If you’re beginning to get stressed, try to find a calm, quiet space and try breathing deeply in and out for a few minutes.
Try the ‘stop’ technique if you find yourself beginning to panic. The aim here isn’t to achieve complete relaxation, but to reduce unhelpful tension to a manageable level. The technique takes less than a minute and can usually be done without other people noticing.
- Say “Stop!” to yourself (out loud if the situation permits)
- Breathe in gently
- Breathe out slowly, relaxing shoulders, arms and hands
- Breathe in again
- Breathe out slowly, relaxing forehead and jaw
- Stay quiet for a few seconds
- Carry on with whatever you were doing, deliberately moving more slowly
If you have to talk, speak a little more slowly and with your voice a little lower than usual. You will find that, in spite of your feelings, the tension will lessen.
3. Seek help and advice
Recognise and accept that exam stress is normal and that exam stress is only for a short period of time in your life. You can even use it as a motivator.
If stress levels become unmanageable and unhelpful, don’t suffer in silence. Ask someone, like a teacher or parent, for help. Confiding in someone you trust and who will be supportive is a good way of alleviating stress and worry.
External organisations that are really great at listening:
Samaritans – www.samaritans.org or call 116123
Living Life – http://www.nhs24.com/usefulresources/livinglife/ or call 0800 328 9655
Katie Perrin is Head of Student Guidance and Wellbeing in Stirling’s Student Support Services.