Friends, parties and fun & games - that’s all college is about, right? Well, almost. Just add sleep deprivation, nail-biting and anxiety to the list, and that's pretty much an accurate snapshot of the whole college experience. When the campus is quiet, and the library is suddenly the most crowded building, that's when you know exam season is near. For many students, the stress of exams can be too much to handle and if you’re feeling the pressure, here are some tips on how to deal with exam stress.
What are the reasons for stress during exams?
So why do we get stressed during exam season? The simple answer is - pressure. Whether it's from within or from the outside, the pressure we feel to do well and get good grades is often why students are so stressed out during exam season and end up looking for ways on how to handle exam stress. If you want to know how to cope with exam stress, the first step is understanding where it comes from.
- Internal factors: Maybe you’ve always been a straight-A student, or maybe you really want to impress your professor because they’ve been amazing all year round. Whatever the reason, you may feel a need to excel, which amps up the pressure you’re feeling to do well.
- External factors: Parents, grad schools, teachers and employers - who isn’t keeping an eye on your grades? Frankly, it's a surprise that dating apps haven't started asking for your GPA! With all these eyes on you and your grades, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the stress of living up to everyone’s expectations.
What does stress look like in students?
With most of us feeling the pressure 24x7, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a little nervousness and serious anxiety. We’ll leave the final diagnosis to the psychiatrists, but here’s some warning signs to look out for:
- Reducing contact with friends and family
- Increase in mood swings
- Stomach aches & headaches
- Seeking solace in drugs & alcohol
- Nail biting
These are a just a few common indicators to look out for before you frantically start typing how to manage exam stress into your keyboard. Even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, that doesn’t you aren’t stressed. It just means that stress manifests differently in you.
Tips to reduce stress during exams
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of students experiencing many mental health issues due to stress. Your education is definitely important, but it isn't worth losing your sanity. But how do you stay calm in the face of constant assessment? Here are 7 helpful tips that tell you exactly how to deal with exam stress.
1. Revise your content well
The best and most obvious way to effectively deal with your exam stress is to study. The thought of sitting down and studying can send many into a downward spiral which is why we all eventually resort to - you guessed it - procrastination! But the best way to get over the impending doom that comes with studying is just to sit down and do it. Once you begin, you realise it's really not that bad and who knows, you may even learn something. There are many different study tips you can use to improve your focus and make sure you ace your exam.
How does revision reduce examination stress?
The main reason exams stress us out is because we’re scared we won't do well. You'll notice that you're much less anxious if you’re well-prepared and familiar with everything you need to know before you begin your exam. You should also always ask for help whenever you need it, whether it's from your peers, your professors or even your family if you think they can help you study better and help you better understand how to deal with exam stress.
2. Practice better time management
Leaving things down to the eleventh hour will not help your stress levels. You’re not writing a script for the next James Bond movie; you don’t need to cut things so close. If you’re looking for tips on how to deal with exam stress, one of the most important is learning how to manage your time so you feel in control and at ease. The best way to achieve this is by sticking to a schedule.
Create a revision timetable
The best way to get yourself to start studying without spending too much time overthinking is to set a timetable and make sure you stay on track with your studies. You can also set small goals and reward yourself to stay motivated. Watch 20 minutes of your favourite show for every new chapter you finish studying!
3. Stay away from all distractions
Social media is probably the biggest distraction for college students. The best way to waste time - just keep scrolling! While it can be fun, social media is often very detrimental during your exams. You may roll your eyes when you see a classmate's “taking a break from social media” post, but that right there is someone who knows how to deal with exam stress well.
Reasons to take a break from social media
If you find that you can spend hours on your phone and completely lose track of how long it’s actually been, you should consider a thorough detox. Opening up Instagram and scrolling through the discover page is almost a reflex action for most of us when our hands are idle. Constantly seeing people post about their lives and achievements can also send you into spinning towards an existential which is something you certainly don't need with exams around the corner.
Benefits of taking a break from social media
Once you take a break, you‘ll find that you have so much more time on your hands that you can use to increase your productivity and efficiency. You can also spend time picking up new hobbies or reading up on the news, which will help enrich your overall learning experience. Taking a break from social media will also free up some time for you to invest in our next tip!
4. Find time to exercise daily
Exercise is one of the quickest ways for you to instantly feel better about yourself when you’re feeling anxious. If you start your day with even just 20 minutes of a good workout, you will see a noticeable increase in your energy levels throughout the day. This is the healthiest method for anyone wondering how to deal with exam stress.
Benefits of exercising every day
Biologically speaking, exercise is an instant mood lifter. When you exercise, your brain is filled with a rush of endorphins chemically proven to make a person feel happier by counteracting the effects of stress-releasing hormones. Science aside, exercising is also just a great way for you to take your mind off studying for a bit and unwind.
Exercises for students
Students have busy schedules, but you can always find time to exercise. Here are some quick workouts you can do in your room:
- Jumping jacks
- Leg raises
5. Make sure to sleep on time
If you’re tired and cranky all the time and want to know how to deal with exam stress, you may want to fix your sleeping habits. Exam time often means all-nighters for students, but this can have adverse effects on your mental health. The importance of sleep shouldn't be lost on students and a lack of sleep often leads to a drop in your productivity levels and can make you unhappy.
How to sleep when stressed?
If you’re having trouble trying to fall asleep, try out some of these methods:
- Turn off your screens before sleeping
- Play white noise in the background
- Keep your room cool
- Make your room as dark as possible
- Practice meditation
Benefits of sleeping well
After you wake up from a good night’s sleep you’ll find that you have much more energy throughout your day. Staying awake all throughout the day allows you to work in sunlight which has a number of health benefits for your physical health. The night before your exam make sure you’re well rested and fresh to sit for your test
6. Practice self-care
If you hopped onto the internet and typed in “how to handle exam stress,” I think it's fair to assume you’re in need of some serious self-care. Self-care is a great way for you to let go of some of the anxiousness that you feel while preparing for your exams. Self-care means different things to different people and the main goal is to just find something that brings you some inner peace, a little joy and helps improve your mental health.
Self-care tips for students
There are a lot of ways you can practise some self-care as a student. If none of these seems to your liking, take a beat and think about what self-care means to you. Here are some ways you can practice self-care as a student:
- Invest time in a good skincare routine
- Take up a new hobby
- Buy a nice meal for yourself
- Go watch a nice movie
- Spend time with your friends
7. Take it easy
The most important thing to remember is to take it easy! Like we said at the start, exams are important but they’re not the end of the world. Your grades don’t define you, and although it may seem like the biggest hurdle for you right now, don’t forget that they’re just a part of your journey and not your final destination.
Exam season is tough on a lot of us, but we hope you now have a better idea of how to cope with exam stress. Doing badly on one exam is not the end of the world so try not to put too much pressure on yourself. We hope you found this blog helpful and wish you all the best with your exams!