Come exam time, there is a clearly visible sense of anxiety and fear as students and parents get prepared to face the exam heat. We have all heard accounts of children facing the brunt of exam-related stress which takes a significant toll on their mental health, resulting in panic attacks, blackouts, and even suicidal thoughts. According to research published in the Journal of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences in 2015, close to 80 percent of students suffer from some sort of exam-related stress in India
The pressure to perform well comes from an innate desire to perform well in our endeavors and in addition to this the pressure of the expectations that parents, teachers, peers, and more importantly we have from ourselves. While some amount of this stress may boost performance, an excess amount of it can have a detrimental effect. Therefore it is critical that we learn to manage this stress better. Before we look at some tips to master this, stress needs to be acknowledged and its symptoms need to be identified. Understanding that stress has reached a level that is no longer functional is very critical. There are certain physiological symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, not feeling like studying which indicate that you are stressed and something needs to be done about it.
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Exams are not just about the syllabus but the preparation involves making certain lifestyle changes. One needs to keep in mind various aspects in dealing with exam stress. Here we share with you things-to-do before the exams, during the exam, and after the exam that will help you deal with exam stress better.
The first task may be to look at the entire syllabus and design a timetable that works for you. Give yourself enough time so that you can prepare well without rushing through anything. Break your syllabus into small and manageable chunks. Also, it helps to understand what time works best for you. For instance, if you prefer studying in the morning then plan your day accordingly. Also, make a revision timetable. While it may sound redundant, it will help you in the longer run.
Write down everything you need to do and then as you get done with each of the topics, keep checking them off. This way you will get a feeling that you are in control of your syllabus and are going as per your plan.
Keeping your study desk clean and organized will help you focus better. Clutter can burden your brain and reduce your ability to think and make you distracted leading to stress.
Talk about your academic challenges with your family and friends. This will help you realize that everyone goes through similar challenges during exams. Family and friends can also help you develop a positive self-image based on your strengths. If the stress seems unmanageable professional help can be sought too.
Taking care of your meals and meal timings will help you improve focus and memory. Eat small and regular meals. Incorporate lots of fluids in your meals. Also taking small breaks to go for a walk or a jog or engaging in a sport or recreational activity will help you boost your focus. Meditation and breathing exercises can also take you a long way.
Positive affirmations about staying focused, meaningful learning, and memorizing can be really helpful. Also, take care of not being harsh on yourself. Remember what targets you have achieved so far, to keep you motivated, but don’t beat yourself down if you miss a few targets.
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Just before to start writing your exams take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. Don’t try to keep revising till the last minute. Tell yourself that you have prepared yourself well and will be able to answer all the questions well. Also, read the questions carefully and tick the ones you know the answers to. Answer them first and manage your time so that you are able to divide your time appropriately for all the questions to avoid the stress of not being able to finish your exams.
Avoid engaging in discussions of question papers and answers after an exam. Trust that you did your best and won’t be able to change anything. Instead, learn from the experience and prepare for the next exam.
As William James put it “the greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” and that is a mantra that we need to keep reminding ourselves when handling exam-related stress.