Top 6 Tips for Dealing with Exam Stress

Exams are approaching and final assignments becoming due, it's not unusual for students to experience increasing levels of stress towards the end of semester.

Stress is our body's normal response to life's challenges. In small amounts stress can be useful to help you knuckle down and focus however, extreme levels can leave you feeling out of control, anxious and debilitated.

Stress can manifest in many different ways and extreme or prolonged cases of the following can all be indicative of heightened stress levels.

  • Difficulty getting to sleep or waking up in the morning
  • Constant tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Lack of motivation or interest in activities
  • Increased anxiety and irritability and/or heart rate
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Decreased immune system

If you feel yourself starting to get stressed there are a number of techniques you can use to help manage your stress levels.

1. Prepare Early

I'm sure you've heard this one already. Your teachers at school and university would have drummed this into you over and over again. Leaving everything to the last minute it a recipe for disaster. You'll feel out of control and may struggle to pinpoint the areas that you should be focusing on.

Start now, work out what subjects you have, when your exams are and how long you have to prepare for them. List which ones you feel more confident in and which you may have fallen a bit behind in and plan your time around this. Even if you don't have any time to start studying until closer to the exams you'll at least have prioritised the areas you think you need to focus on and won't be as overwhelmed.

2. Exercise

Lack of time and feeling overwhelmed during exams can make it hard to make time to exercise during exams. Many students think they should spend their entire exam period with their heads down trying to absorb as much as possible.

Not only does exercise help reduce stress levels, it is proven to boost your memory and brain power. Images from a study conducted by Dr Chuck Hillman of the University of Illinois below clearly demonstrate the effect exercise can have on your brain's activity.
Why not go for a walk, spend some time at the fitness centre or pool or take a group fitness class- yoga is a great way to get your relaxation in while still moving.

3. Eat Well

Your brain needs fuel to function and the more nutritious your food the better you'll study. Stick to the healthy eating pyramid, stay hydrated and avoid junk food and too many stimulants like caffeine. Sugar may give you an instant energy hit but you'll feel worse when the hit wears off. For more specific tips on nutrition during exams click here.

4. Get enough sleep

Stress can make it hard to get to sleep but its important to try to get at least 6-8 hours a night. Getting enough sleep will not only help you stay focused and concentrate more, but it's also important for remembering information you learnt during the day. Your brain assimilates knowledge during sleep which helps you retain the knowledge in your long-term memory so you can recall it during exams.

If you're having trouble sleeping stop revising and go tech-free for at least half an hour before bedtime. Read a book or have a chat to a family member or housemate over a cup of chamomile tea so that your not overstimulated before bed.

5. Meditate

Meditation can be a fantastic way to break free from stress and take a break from study. A quick 10 minute meditation break can help you stay focused and improve mental and physical health to reduce pre-exam stress. Never meditated before? There are plenty of online resources available or apps like Smiling Mind to help you get started.

6. Take a Break

It's important to take time out to relax and do things you enjoy even while you're midway in exams. Try studying for 50 minute blocks and taking a 10 minute break, or two hours and take a half hour break. Reward yourself the latest episode of your favourite TV show, go for a walk with a friend, or use your breaks as scheduled social media time.

Bonus Stress-busters

Play with your pet.
Pop bubble wrap.
Listen to music.
Avoid negative people and comparing yourself to other people.