Keep calm and crack on
So the Christmas holidays have ended, you’ve enjoyed time with friends and family, and hopefully had a wonderful time, but now it’s back to reality and school, college or University. For some it’s not just a return to school it’s also coming back to your mock exams, unless you were disciplined enough to do some study during the holidays, the stress of what lies ahead can be overwhelming, prepared or not one thing is certain, you will feel stress.
Most students begin to panic before exams, some stress is good and gets your adrenaline pumping. But too much stress especially unwarranted stress can be bad for your body and for your grades, stress exists for a reason and you can choose to let it be or you can use it to drive you to improve your work.
To combat exam stress, firstly you need to understand the reasons behind this heightened anxiety. Then you can establish methods to reduce the pressures you feel. Researchers have uncovered some common explanations for this:
The difference between a student who allows stress to overwhelm them and someone who uses it to push them harder is what they do when they are facing that brick wall during revision time. At times when it all becomes overwhelming, the best method a student can take is to pause, reflect and choose a path that will help them overcome the impasse, not just wait for the wave to engulf them, this is almost like taking that huge breath in and letting it all go – pause and reflect.
Study tips, study plans, at the desk exercises, and even diet can help relieve anxiety. Here are our 8 Mindful Warrior tips to help you stay calm during exam time.
1. Don’t have too many sugary foods or drinks
A little bit of stimulant keeps you attentive, but too much will actually increase your anxiety and harm your body. You want to be alert, not a quivering basket case. Pace yourself, and make sure you’re eating regularly, as much as possible stick to your normal eating and drinking routine, water is always the best choice to drink. Eat healthy and try really hard to eat only natural, fresh foods with zero chemicals and preservatives, your body will feel and run better, you will have a lot more energy than you would otherwise.
When we become stressed our breath is the first thing to change, it becomes shallow and speeds up, our heart rates increases triggering our fight or flight reaction, reversing this reaction is simple, take deep full breaths, taking a full breath in through the nose to the base of the abdomen (pranayama) then slowly taking the full breath out through the nose, completely emptying the lungs, do this at least 12 times or for as many times as you feel comfortable. This is also a great calming technique right before going into or during the exam.
3. Get plenty of sleep
Ensuring that you are sleeping well can improve your mood, concentration and academic performance. Conversely, lack of sleep can make you feel down or irritable. For teens, the recommended number of hours of sleep per night is 8 to 10 hours, especially during exam time. Never go to sleep straight after revising, give yourself some relaxation time before the end of the day.
4. Get some exercise
As well as helping your bones and muscles become stronger and building a healthy heart, physical activity plays an important role in developing the brain and supporting essential mental functions. Also, the endorphins that the brain releases during exercise help to improve your mood, energy levels and even sleep. So if you normally do some form of activity, keep doing it, if you don’t do much, make time for it in your schedule, take a walk, go for a run, play some sport with your friends, do yoga in your bedroom or in a class – whatever it is do some form of exercise. This physical stress on your body actually relieves emotional stress, tension and anxiety.
5. Plan your study routine
This may not be a big surprise but what is shocking is the amount of students who discount the benefits of creating a personal study plan. With some initial effort, you can become more productive and motivated each day you approach your study by understanding your learning progress. Set short, mid, and long-term goals to determine exactly what is that you need to achieve and by when. Goal setting can help with motivation by giving you something tangible to work towards. Also in this routine include your breaks, food and drink, breathing, mindfulness, exercise, and even sleep. During your relaxation time don’t even think about work or exams.
6. Break free from distractions
I bet you don’t even realise the number of times you check Facebook, Instagram or whatever your vice is? When you add it all up together, it amounts to a significant amount of time that could be used more efficiently. It can be hard to detach from your life outside of studying but keeping the end goal and timeframe in mind will ease the process. Put your phone/ devices in another room during your actual study time, be tech free for that period of time.
7. Let it all out
Sometimes when the tension feels too much talking to someone is a huge help, talking to someone who will just listen without judgement to your concerns and fears can be very liberating, and can feel like a huge weight off your chest, other times you need to shout it from the rooftop or scream from the top of your lungs. Figure out what you’re feeling and then let it out. Speaking to a family member or friend can highlight the bigger picture for you, or call https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/exam_stress.php
8. Listen to classical music
Listening to music can create a positive and productive environment by elevating your mood and encouraging you to study more effectively. Classical music is recommended as the best type of music to boost your brain power but ambient music can work too, this is also good during your relaxation time, listen to your favourite band or song and sing and dance along if it feels good to do so.
Mindfulness is a state of being where you are in the present moment, observing whatever you happen to be experiencing at that time with an attitude of openness and curiosity and without judging or trying to change your experience. In this way, we are able to step back from difficult emotions such as anxiety or stress rather than get caught up and carried away in them. This will also help you focus on the task at hand, and maybe divide it into smaller chunks to make it feel more manageable.
Your mind is absorbing so much information during this busy time. Try a meditation the night before and the morning of every revision and exam day, just 5 minutes will give your brain a break and refresh your mind and help increase your performance on the day of the exam. Do this directly after your breathing practice for the best results.
Hopefully these tips have been of some help, but ultimately find what works for you, you are a unique individual and what might work for some people might not necessarily work for you, so use these tips as a guide, especially if you are unsure of what to do, they will be very useful in creating the discipline and routine you need, and always remember to stay calm and crack on