May 13, 2019
Exam season usually means late nights, eating a bad diet, and stressing about impending tests. Whether you are in university, studying for a professional qualification, or perhaps you know someone who is doing their school exams right now, you will know the performance pressure and anxiety that comes with this time of year. Learning to cope with this specific brand of stress can be just as important as the effort you put in to secure a pass, as reducing your anxiety will also help you remember more under pressure and perform at your best on the day. Here are a few things to try:
Talk to others
One of the most stressful parts of an exam is going into "the unknown": walking into a room without knowing if you have studied enough, or if what you have studied is even correct. A lot of exam stress can be reduced simply by meeting up with others in your position and discussing what you're revising.
Sharing your worries and key ideas can help you to support and encourage each other throughout this stressful time. It's important not to see this as an opportunity to compare your preparation with someone else's (everyone studies differently), but instead, discuss how you are feeling and work together to ensure you are both on the right track.
This is often thought of as somewhat "new age-y", and taking time to sit with your eyes closed doing nothing can feel a lot like letting precious study minutes slip away, but meditation could be the key to a better performance. Studies show that even a short meditation before a stressful event can help reduce anxiety, and improve your focus and memory, so it's the perfect pre-exam relaxation tool.
Even using the first 5 minutes of the exam to focus on your breathing could calm your nerves and give you the mental clarity you need to perform at your best, so consider a short meditation before you begin - here is a quick 5 minute meditation from UCLA Health to start you off.
Take care of your body
Mental burnout becomes physical exhaustion pretty quickly if you don’t keep on top of it, and taking care of your body is essential if you want to avoid ending up ill with the flu on the big day. Your immune system takes a battering when you are stressed, so make sure you incorporate healthy food and exercise into your schedule.
Cooking a healthy meal might seem like a waste when you could simply pop something in the microwave and spend the time studying instead, but ignoring nutrition in favour of more study time could be your downfall, as it can affect your health in the long run. Be kind to your body while studying so that you feel in tip-top shape when the exam rolls around.
The importance of getting enough sleep has been talked about a lot recently, and its benefits are becoming more and more apparent in relation to mental and physical health. Getting a good night’s rest before an exam could be the difference between you feeling tired and cranky, or alert and ready to take on the challenge.
If you find yourself wide awake the night before due to nerves, as many of us do before a big event, then try not to get upset or frustrated with your body. Know that even though your mind is racing with flashcards and study notes, you can still close your eyes, inhale deeply (Sleep Well Balm is great for relaxing the mind), and focus simply on resting, rather than sleeping. Before long, your body will likely respond by drifting off naturally.
Find an anchor
Some people can become almost paralysed with fear during formal exams, frozen by the overwhelming pressure to deliver and remember all of the knowledge they have accumulated over the past months. While it doesn’t happen to all of us, it can be a frightening experience.
While meditation is helpful, not everyone feels comfortable closing their eyes and centering themselves in an exam hall, so having some kind of anchor could be the key to visualising the success you want to achieve, and blocking out the scary thoughts running around your brain. Try finding a mantra that you can repeat over and over in your mind, or take our Escape Balm into the exam to calm you down - anchoring yourself to reality can help you focus and block out negative thoughts.
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