Whether it is Matric exams or a step up in University, managing exam stress is not a joke. On one hand, a little stress can provide that kick we need to worker harder and smarter, but for many, it turns into a quick spiral.
Once your stress is out of control, it will actually hinder you from achieving your desired targets, so it is essential for you to spot the symptoms and understand how it can be controlled.
When it comes to exam time, almost everybody struggles with a little anxiety and a feeling of increased pressure as you look to achieve high marks. However, be aware of any changes to your personality or habits during this time, as it can often signal whether or not the stress is taking its toll on your body.
Firstly, if you are struggling to sleep or wake up in the morning, then this could be an early warning – along with constant tiredness. Aches and pains could also trouble you, along with a poor appetite and lack of interest in other activities. Blurred vision and dizziness can occur, along with increased anxiety, irritability and heart rate.
If you start suffering these symptoms during exams, it is a clear indication that you need to do something to manage exam stress.
The first and arguably most important thing to do is learn how to recognise when you are starting to stress out. In this instance, you should stop to take a break, or alternatively talk to somebody who knows the pressure you are dealing with to help put things in perspective.
Steer clear of discussing studies with friends or peers doing the same course, as it often leads you to compare study routines and could give you unrealistic ambitions to compete with.
Feeding your body properly is of the utmost importance, not only in this period but as much as possible. Choosing fresh fruit, vegetables and enjoying a proper breakfast will help your body and mind to deal with the strain of exams. Coffee and junk food is not a substitute for this.
Studies can often be crammed in during the final hours, but instead set your timetable so that you are catering for a healthy sleeping pattern. Give yourself time to wind down after studies and ensure that work doesn’t join you under the covers. Think outside the box, there are many exam tips available to help you plan your study time more efficiently.
Exercise is another very important tool for dealing with stress during studies. Physical activity not only releases tension in the body, but also in the mind. Make sure to include regular exercise into your study timetable to keep your mind fit and active.
Once the date arrives, be aware of how you are reacting in the exam room. If you feel yourself starting to take short, shallow breaths, take a moment to sit back and focus on controlled breathing.
And once the time is up and the pens are down, don’t backtrack on answers with others. This just prolongs your worries and once it is over, there is nothing that can be done to change your answers, so rather progress and focus on the next task.
Always remember, life doesn’t end at exams, so study hard, do the best you possibly can and look after yourself during the process.