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How to Deal With Exam Stress and Anxiety

How to Deal With Exam Stress and Anxiety

To manage exams well, we need to stay at the peak of our functioning capacity. Too much stress and anxiety can spoil our performance, but we all need a certain amount of adrenalin in our bodies to take on the challenges ahead. Hence it’s important to know How to Deal with Exam Stress and Anxiety.

How to Reduce Stress Before Exams

Here are some tips for you, to reduce stress and anxiety before your exams, and for improving your performance:
  • Practice deep breathing and/or other relaxation techniques before the exam.
  • List your achievable targets and tick them off when completed. This is planning your revision in advance.
  • Don’t let your mind indulge in negative thoughts like "I can't understand this chapter", " I'm going to fail this paper" or "I'm not going to pass the exam".
  • Have some fun, but stay away from alcohol or drugs, as they can affect your memory and de-skill you. Avoid going to sleep soon after revision, otherwise you may have difficulty sleeping with thoughts rushing around your mind.
  • Summarize what you you’ve revised as you go along and ask yourself questions as you read.
  • Stay in touch with helpful and compassionate friends and family members: having someone to help you in case you face any difficulty or stuck in any problem.
  • Avoid coffee after noon, which may over-stimulate and increase anxiety.

How you may feel before your examination

Most people feel frightened of exams to some degree.
  • Some know from past experience that they perform well in exams and look forward to the thought of being put to the test.
  • Some are apprehensive because they know they haven't done enough work.
  • Some know from past experience that their personality type does not match the high anxiety / hard drive style best suited to exams.
Most exam fear, however, is irrational and unhelpful to the process of achievement.

Occasionally it is expressed as an extreme fear or phobia in a statement such as "If I fail this exam, my life won't be worth living".

If you find thoughts like this running through your mind and you are also afflicted with physical sensations such as sweating, breathing difficulties, panic attacks, memory losses, consult your doctor straight away. GPs are used to these symptoms and will often prescribe helpful medication.

Psychological counseling is also primed to meet exam anxiety/phobia in a helpful and supportive way. 

The fact is that you are able to succeed in exams if you make the right kind of well-timed effort. The sooner you consult doctor or any other mental health professional, the more easily they will be able to help you.

Many students suffering in these extreme ways have calmed down significantly after a period of counseling and done well in their exams. Group or individual counseling gives you confidence and helps you to tackle your studies in a more organized way.

Some breathing and other relaxation techniques to practice

Good breathing and relaxation are vital to general health and especially to performing in a high-stress situation. If you are breathing correctly, with enough oxygen entering your brain, your thinking will be clearer and more effective; also you will be much less likely to panic.

Quick relaxation

Sit straight and comfortably somewhere. Place one hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath through your nose, counting to four. Hold it for four counts. Breathe out through your mouth counting to four. Repeat three times, every hour or whenever you start to feel tense.

Longer relaxation

Find a warm, quiet place to lie down and relax for 20 minutes. Now tense and relax each muscle group progressively, moving down the body. For example:
  • Head and shoulders
  • Arms and chest
  • Stomach and buttocks
  • Legs and feet
Alternately tense and relax the muscles… breathe deeply… and so on… (Find detailed discussion hereHow to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation)

    Read also → Relaxation Techniques and other Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Stress

After the deep breathing and relaxation exercises you may be ready for some positive self-suggestion. Having thought carefully about your strongest points and what you are best at, select a phrase and repeat it to yourself softly as you breathe deeply. This can be your own secret phrase. You may even want to use it repeatedly as a mantra to counter negative thinking at anxious moments.

Here are some examples of other people's positive statements about themselves:
  • I am patient and persistent
  • I'm methodical
  • I'm organized
  • I'm good at managing my time
  • My energy is free-flowing
  • My ideas are good

Revision Techniques

Read through past exam papers in a group of fellow students and discuss possible answers.
  • Put everyone's essays in a heap in the middle and pick ones to read.
  • Test each other in a group.
  • Use spider diagrams for note-taking and testing your memory as you revise.
  • Use highlighter pens and different colored paper for different topics.
  • Be inventive. Use keywords, rhymes, mnemonics.
  • Voice record information and play it back to yourself while asleep!

How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety During Exams

  • Try to avoid stressful/anxious conversations just before the exam.
  • Remember your breathing and your positive self-statement.
  • Organize time in the exam very carefully.
  • Read through the entire paper first.
  • Decide which questions to answer and mark them.
  • Allocate time for each question.
  • Spend about 10 minutes writing your plan, making as much mess as you like before launching into your answer paper, more ideas will probably come to you as you work through your plan and it's easy at this point to fit them into the appropriate place. Tell yourself that once your plan is written, the answer is as good as done, so then you can relax and write it out calmly.
  • Another advantage of a plan is that if you leave an answer unfinished a kindly examiner may see from your plan that you meant to go on further!
  • Try to finish within the time you have allocated for each question. The sense of structure this gives you will be calming to your feelings and your thoughts.

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