How do you or your family members deal with exams? As a teenager in high school and as a young adult in university, I found exams to be crippling. Though I was a diligent student, I would find myself extremely anxious leading up to the exams and during the exams I would have frequent mind blanks. A little bit of anxiety or stress can be a good thing. It can help drive us to knuckle down and stay focused. However, if stress levels arise beyond your control, it can prevent you from performing your best. We at Kinesiology Asia, see many clients for exam stress but for those who haven't made it in yet, here are a few tips to get those A's!
1. Be Prepared.
To feel more in control, early preparation is key. Yes, this will mean more work initially, however less worry later. Make sure you know what you will be tested on. Have the proper notes, look at past exams and practise on sample tests in the textbook or study guide.
2. Timetable Study Time AND Break Time.
According to psychologists and neuroscientists, a key factor in dealing with exam stress is to create a study timetable with 45 minute studying sessions AND 5 – 10 minute breaks. Regular breaks helps our brains to stay refreshed and focused.
3. Get Sleep, Eat Healthily, and Keep Moving.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial in reducing stress levels especially during exam time. This means:
Staying hydrated with lots of water and herbal teas.
Eating regular healthy meals to keep blood sugar levels steady which will help you to stay focused. Avoid processed, sugary foods like cereal, biscuits, sweets and chocolate. Instead, lean towards fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and beans.
Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and any other drugs. They may cause short term relief, however long-term they will make you feel much worse.
Exercising regularly helps to release endorphins (natural feel-good brain chemicals) and also helps to prevent aches and pains caused from long hours hunched over studying.
Having a good sleep routine which involves going to bed at the same time and avoiding TV and your phone before hitting the sack. Opt for a bath or doing some meditation instead. If you tend to worry at night, keep a notepad and pen next to your bed to write down any anxious thoughts. These techniques will help you to switch off and get those much needed Z's which will help you get those A's :)
4. Focus on the breath.
Taking slow deep belly breaths whilst closing your eyes is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress. You inhale more oxygen which has a profound calming effect on the nervous system. The beauty with this technique is you can do it anywhere anytime, even whilst you are in the exam.
Visualisation is a powerful tool which helps to minimise stress and boost confidence so much so that athletes and celebrities have been known to use this technique and benefit greatly from it. First, start with some deep breaths so that you are calm and relaxed. Try visualising yourself taking the actual exam making it as detailed as you can, imagining the exact surroundings, the clothes you are wearing, how the room smells, how the pen feels in your hand etc. The more details you can include, the better. Imagine the whole process in a calm confident state from entering the room to when you have finished the paper. Try doing this over again until any anxieties fade away. By the time of your exam, you will be a lot more confident and calm about the whole process.
6. Swap negative thoughts for positive ones.
Negative self-talk doesn't help any situation, so try trading negative thoughts with positive motivational ones. For example: "I can do this," "I am calm and relaxed," " I am confident," " All the answers come easily to me," "I will focus only on the question in front of me," "I have done it before, so I can do it again." Coupling positive affirmations with deep breathing and visualisation techniques will help calm those nerves, boost confidence and prepare you for the task ahead.
7. Talk about it with someone; you are not alone.
It's very important to remember that everyone finds exams stressful and that you are not alone. Reduce stress by expressing your worries to a friend, family member, tutor or counsellor. Don't forget to ask for help if you need. That's what your teachers, lecturers, and kinesiologists are here for.
- Tiffany Laue, Kinesiologist