The 8 rules to lower exam stress
Exams are stressful, there is no doubt about it. The following 8 rules will help you to keep your cool through even the most stressful exam or assignment periods.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
It’s almost universal to want to reach for energy drinks and sugar when you’re tired, but is this really helping your stress levels or making them worse?
Your body is the primary tool through which you learn and perceive the world. Cultivating an enjoyable healthy lifestyle will not just increase your productivity and well-being, but it will also lower your stress levels. Learn to prioritise your health and you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life, not just through this busy exam period.
Simple things you can do that will make an enormous impact include making sure you get enough sleep, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, drinking lots of water and eat a healthy diet full of lots fruit and vegetables.
Connect with your friends and family
As humans we’re social creatures. We’re wired to connect and meaningfully engage with others and the world around us. Make sure you spend time each week checking in with your friends and family.
Joy is best created through helping and supporting others, so reach out and find ways to check in. You could write notes of encouragement or organise a surprise party for your friends. It might even be starting a study group with your friends. Little acts of kindness are a great way to lower your stress and focus your attention on the essentials in life – family and friends.
Break free from distractions
Don’t underestimate the cost of distractions on your day. Whether your studying or trying to relax, find ways to lower the ongoing cost of your brain flying around at 100 miles an hour. It can take up to 5 minutes to refocus your attention when your message tone goes off on your phone or you look at your Facebook feed. A whole 5 minutes wasted.
Make a strategic plan like turning your phone on flight mode. This is a powerful tool because you will be able to study more productively saving time and energy. Imagine being able to learn as much in 40 minutes, as you could in one hour simply by removing the distractions. All of that time can then be spent on others things that you love.
Learn how you learn. This is a lifetime project and will impact everything you do. If you know how to effectively hit the books you will be much less stressed going into exam periods because you will know how to create the result you’re looking for. Research tools and ask your teachers for ways to improve your study techniques.
It might be learning memory exercises or how to break down and create systems for certain topics or subjects. Cramming is never the best solution so keep looking for ways to get prepared and find the space and time to really focus on the subject at hand. This will save you time, energy and maximise your results, while lowering your stress.
Ask for help and talk about your feelings
If you’re struggling with the exam subjects or feeling anxious, reach out and ask for help. Often when we keep things to ourselves and stay silent, the problem or anxiety balloons when simply talking about it or getting access to some support can really lower your stress. The same goes with a friend if you think they’re not coping. Reach out and ask, are you ok? It could be talking to your teacher, a close friend or your parents, but we encourage you to not try to cope with your stress alone.
Exam stress can often be increased by the feeling that you should always be studying. This feeling is likely to just increase your anxiety and isn’t a correct assumption.
Imagine if someone wanted to be a professional runner. Would they run all day and then into the night with little to no break? No, they would burn out and get injured. The same is true with study. It is about working smarter not harder. The art is in designing a study routine that works for you.
Create specific study times and stick to them. Often this can mean slots of one hour in which 50 minutes is spent studying and 10 minutes is spent relaxing. Make sure you also factor in specific relaxation activities and schedule them in your diary.
Get creative and experiment this week. Try a new routine and see what works and what doesn’t. Then try little adjustments every week to create a study routine that works well for you.
Question your expectations
So much of exam stress comes from letting unhelpful thoughts and external pressures grow in your mind unchecked. Perfectionism and the feeling that nothing but 100% will be good enough is a sure way to induce exam stress.
If you feel like this is something that is creating a lot of stress for you it could be worth chatting with a trusted adult, counsellor or friend so that you can find strategies for challenging those thoughts that are causing excess stress.
Learn to relax
One of the great ways to reduce exam stress is to find some relaxation activities that you really enjoy. It is great if these activities are things you can do on a daily basis to switch off.
Popular examples include listening to relaxing music, meditating, playing music or sport and spending time in nature. It can be easy to underestimate the importance of these and cross them out of your study schedule, but think of them as tools for charging your batteries. With more energy from these activities your study will be more effective and will lower your exam stress.
Now it’s time to make your plan…
So, now that you have the 8 rules to lower your exam stress it’s time to create your own action plan. What are the key ingredients that will set you up for success? Make sure you include times to relax, times to connect and of course some focused times to study.