We all have been in a state where our exams are approaching, and we have nothing but exam stress and anxiety on our minds. Dealing with exam stress and anxiety is more complicated than it seems. It can negatively impact our academic performance and also our mental health. So in this article, you will learn about X ways of managing exam stress and anxiety so that you can keep yourself calm even and put your best out there
What is exam anxiety?
Exam anxiety is the feeling of fear or panic before or during an exam. Usually, there are two types of anxiety:
Low anxiety: Students who face this type of anxiety, although nervous, can still keep it together. They can focus on the questions and concentrate on their studies. This type of anxiety is felt all the time, even when we stand on the stage for a performance or before a crucial football match. Generally speaking, low anxiety does not hamper a person’s performance, and students do not feel debilitated by the exam.
High Anxiety: Students experiencing high anxiety cannot think, focus nor face the challenge of the exams before them. They intend to avoid the circumstance at all costs. It leads a student to a state of panic where the student thinks passing an exam is almost impossible for him. This type of anxiety can contribute to a degrade of excellence and also negatively impact a person’s confidence.
Both low and high anxiety can be mitigated by effective managing of stress and anxiety. That is why we will learn some small tips that will help us better tackle these circumstances.
Symptoms of anxiety and stress
How do you know that you are feeling the heat of an exam? You need to be aware of some common symptoms.
Here are some :
- Racing heart
- Damp hands
- Rapid breathe
- Feeling queasy
- Irrelevant and negative thoughts
How to view exam stress?
Exam stress is not always a bad thing. The “Yerkes Dodson Law” states that our performance increases with physiological and mental stress, but only to a certain extent. Above the recommended level, our performance is going to decline. To put it into easier words, exam anxiety to a level can help you study more and be more focused. But if you are too much worried, whatever you learn might not stick in your brain much longer. So you need to view exam stress as a common phenomenon that will always be there no matter what you do. It is the exam stress that provides you with a drive for studying.
You can never eradicate exam stress and anxiety, but you can always try to minimize them.
Remember to breathe
One of the best exercises that you can do for staying calm is breathing. Set aside 10 minutes every single day and practice mindful techniques, such as breathing exercises. These exercises will help your body and mind stay calmer and be more focused on whatever you do. It will allow you to think much more clearly and logically and eliminate all the irrelevant thoughts clouding your mind. Here is a breathing exercise that I recommend :
- Before you take a deep breath, try a deep exhale. Push all the air out of your lungs and then inhale air as usual.
- Then, try to spend a little more time exhaling than inhaling. For instance, try inhaling for 4 seconds and exhale for six seconds.
- Do this for 2-5 minutes.
This technique can be done in both sitting, standing, or lying down. Exhaling is linked with the parasympathetic system. So proper lengthening of your exhale can help to keep you calm and relaxed.
Also, when you are sitting for an exam and feel really overwhelmed seeing the question paper, don’t try to fight out the anxiety. Stay calm and take 2-3 deep breathes to calm your heart down before starting the test. Breathing is essential, and if you can control it, you can manage your mind at all times.
What we don’t realize is that our day-to-day habits directly impact the level of stress and anxiety we experience. Putting all-nighters, skipping breakfast, poor dietary habits, and a sedentary lifestyle may increase anxiety symptoms. If you want your brain to stay calmer and function at its peak, you need to provide it with the best nutrients and quality sleep.
Here is some advice for healthy living that will help you deal with exam stress and anxiety:
- Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night.
- Eat slow-release carbs like Bread, breakfast cereals, apples, peaches, carrots, pasta and noodles etc. See more here.
- No caffeine after 3p.m because it may stay in your blood even after 8-10 hours of ingestion and might hamper your sleep quality.
- Stay hydrated at all times.
- Half an hour of exercise per day (at least)
Don't be alone
Studying with friends through discussions is one of the best studying methods. It helps you learn better, but it also helps you not feel the exam stress and anxiety. It is better to share the pressure that you are feeling than feeling it all alone.
Students definitely feel more comfortable around their peers. When your exams are approaching, the friends attending the same exam can closely understand and share your feelings. Studying with them before exams are going to help you deal with the exam stress and anxiety
Take regular breaks
When you are feeling stressed before an exam, you need to take it slow. Do not overwhelm yourself with long study hours without breaks. Taking regular breaks between study sessions is really important for keeping yourself calm. I would suggest you use the Pomodoro Technique. The gaps between Pomodoro the session can be used to relieve the monotony of study sessions.
Make the breaks fun and enjoyable. Every now and then, distract yourself by doing something you like. Go out for dinner, have a chat with your friends, play a game of FIFA, water your garden or do anything to take your mind off the exam. This will refresh your mind and help you manage exam stress and anxiety a lot better.
Take a walk outdoors.
Taking a walk when you are feeling excessively stressed is one of the best ways to recover. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), a 10-minute walk can relieve as much stress as a 45-minute exercise. During exam season, so many of us remain bound to our study spaces and do not give ourselves a walk outside. Whenever you feel the pressure creeping into you, leave your books, and take a walk alone. Nature will help you to relax your nerves and help you think more clearly.
Another way to increase the level of serotonin in your brain is by being exposed to sunlight. 5-15 minutes of sun exposure each day can help you keep the serotonin levels in the normal range. Increased serotonin levels are going to keep your mood elevated. It will also reduce the chances of developing excess anxiety.
Do not compare yourself to others.
There is a famous saying which goes, ” Expectation is the thief of joy”. It is relatively accurate. So many of us feel undervalued and depressed when we start comparing our lives to others. If you are doing the same thing during the exam season, you will get depressed, and your anxiety levels will go up.
When the exams are approaching, do not go about and ask everyone about their preparation. Everyone has their own timeline. If you are talking with someone who has nearly completed the syllabus, you are just going to feel low. These can cause you to feel more stressed out because others are getting ahead of you.
Forget about what others are doing. Focus on you and your preparation.
Sing out loud
According to research, singing can soothe your soul and relax your mind. When we sing the songs we love, our brains release endorphins related to the feelings of pleasuree. It also tends to decrease the level of cortisol which is the stress hormone. Whenever you feel like you are tensed and anxious, sing out your favourite song.
Distract yourself from the anxious environment and take yourself to a comfort zone. This will help you the day before the exam when your studies will be over, but the tension will last.
Reducing exam day stress
This is a rare tip that no one talks about. Reaching the exam hall in a rush can worsen your anxiety and possibly result in lousy test performance. You need to stay as calm as you can on the test day. One of the ways to do that is to wake up early, have a good breakfast, and reach the exam hall earlier.
Exam halls usually are quiet and dull, which can elevate your stress levels. Adapting to this environment might take time. Getting there early and taking some long breathes can make you feel relaxed and relieve the symptoms of any type of anxiety. Also, do not think about study materials or try to recall anything just before an exam. Just believe in yourself that you will remember everything when the question paper pops up.
I hope these tips help you in managing exam stress and anxiety effectively. One of the main reasons students develop anxiety in the first place is the fear of negative consequences. But remember that your exam tomorrow does not change your future, nor does it change you. It is a part of life. Not all exams will be “home runs”, but you just have to accept it as it is.
The journey is more important than the destination. So just relax and enjoy studying