2 May 2011

Exams: Dealing with stress

How to spot it and stop it...

Exams: Dealing with stress

Hands up who has never stressed about exams. Even if only a tiny bit. For most of us, exams are the most pressurised times of our lives.

And (a little bit of) stress does us good. How could we motivate ourselves through 100 pages of The Russian Revolution if we weren't remotely bothered?

So everyone has bad days. Sometimes our stress levels get out of hand. This can stop us performing at our best. And mess with our body as well as our mind.

What are the symptoms of stress?

* Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
* Constant tiredness
* Forgetfulness
* Unexplained aches and pains
* Poor appetite
* Loss of interest in activities
* Increased anxiety and irritability
* Increased heart rate
* Migraines/headaches
* Blurred vision
* Dizziness

If you've noticed three or more of the above symptoms and you've experienced them for a few weeks you may need to do something about your stress levels.

What can I do?
* Learn to recognise when you're stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you're under will get things into perspective.
* Avoid comparing your abilities with your mates. Those "Oh my God I've only read Macbeth 17 times" conversations are such a wind up. Everyone approaches revision in different ways, so just make sure you've chosen the method that works best for you. Make a realistic timetable. Stick to it.
* Eat right. Treat yourself like a well honed machine. Fresh fruit and veg. Proper breakfasts. No one can think straight on Coffee and Cornflakes.
* Sleep well. Wind down before bed. Don't revise under the duvet - your bed is a sanctuary not a desk. Get your 8 hours.
* Exercise. Nothing distresses the mind faster than physical activity. Build it into your timetable. Being a sloth makes our mind sloppy too.
* Quit the bad habits. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Never stopped anyone being stressed for long.
* Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (ie quick, shallow breaths). So if you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breath in and out through the nose. Counting to five each way.
* Steer clear of any exam 'post-mortem'. It doesn't matter what your mate wrote for Question 3(b). It's too late to go back and change your answers, so it will just make you worry even more.
* Ultimately, don't lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won't last forever.

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