Words by: Words by Hannah Poulton
There is a lot of pressure on people to succeed in exams and sometimes this can begin to feel a little overwhelming.
Unfortunately we don't have a magic wand that can make exams go away but we do have some tips that will help you stay well, focused and prepared for your exams.
What's the difference between feeling under pressure and feeling stressed?
You can begin to experience stress when you feel really under pressure mentally or emotionally. It's natural to feel under pressure during exam season and if you can learn to manage it you will keep the stress away. Some of you may thrive under pressure, it can motivate you and help you to perform at your best. For others, they may feel the total opposite and struggle with pressure, feeling as though they are unable to manage. Pressure becomes stress when you feel as though you are no longer able to cope day to day.
Changing the way you think changes the chemicals in your body
When you feel under pressure your body releases hormones which induces a stress response. Adrenaline pumps around your body to prepare you for the task ahead. Whether this is running away from something, walking into an exam hall, playing a football game or getting ready before a date. Your body does this to help you cope with the pressure or "threat". As soon as you have dealt with this your body naturally re-balances and you feel calm again. Once in a while this kind of hormonal reaction is ok, but if you are constantly firing off this stress response over a long period of time your body will become flooded with these hormones which will lead to feeling and being stressed.
By changing your perceptions about an exam or your abilities to perform in an exam you will be able to manage your body's natural response to the things it perceives as a threat.
Manage your pressure or stress triggers
By understanding what triggers you to feel stressed you can begin to identify unconscious perceptions that you hold and identify some super coping strategies to help you deal with these safely and quickly. By taking control you will feel empowered to manage the situation and this will improve your well-being and resilience.
- Note down the last time you felt really under pressure or overwhelmed
- Note down what you were doing and where you were
- Note down whether you were with someone
- Note down how you felt emotionally at that time
- Note down how you felt physically i.e heart started to race, tummy felt
- What happened next i.e. what was the result, what did you do and how did you feel for the rest of the day
- What made you feel better.
How to spot if you're stressed
You could be showing signs of stress if you're:
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Struggle to focus and feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling anxious and feeling as though your self-esteem is crumbling
- Feel teary and more emotional than usual
- Struggling to sleep or stay asleep throughout the night
- Waking up from sleep and feeling exhausted
- Suffering from regular stomach upsets
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling run down
- Begun to experience panic attacks
Experiencing one or more of these things doesn't necessarily mean you're "stressed"; we all have very different levels of tolerance to exam situations. Have a think about how your body and mind feels day to day and if you start to notice that you are developing these kinds of signs here are some positive actions you can take to keep yourself well.
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The three vital things your body needs to keep well is food, water and sleep.
The NHS states that "the European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink about 1.6 litres of fluid and men should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid per day. That's about eight glasses of 200ml each for a woman, and 10 glasses of 200ml each for a man". Keeping hydrated is important for brain function, distributing nutrients around our body and removing what we no longer need.
Nourish your body with lots of healthy grub. Fuel your body and mind with lots of greens, fruit, nuts and seeds for healthy energy boosting snacks and make sure you have a balanced diet of three meals a day.
If you don't feel fulfilled your regular tummy rumbles will make it incredibly hard for you to concentrate. Try and eat as naturally as possible and stay away from refined sugars found in sweets, fizzy drinks and chocolate. Yes they'll give you a boost initially but very quickly you'll notice a slump, leaving you feeling sleepy.
Sleep is so important, it's your body's healing time, when the cells repair and your brain archives and detoxes the millions of thoughts that have raced through your mind during the day.
If you find that you have started dreaming a lot, it's because there has been a lot playing on your mind during the day. If you can identify what these things are, write them down before bed. By acknowledging what they are you should sleep soundly. Try to keep to the same sleep pattern that you maintained prior to exams.
To help you get into that sleepy zone, give yourself 30 minutes to wind down, that means no TV and no smart phone. Pick up a story book and switch the light off as soon as those eyelids start to droop.
Keeping yourself focused
When you wake each morning don't rush to the nearest set of notes or textbook. Sit quietly in bed or look out of the window, please your hand on your heart and begin to breathe deeply. Once you have found a rhythm that works for you say one thing you are grateful for and set an intention for your day.
Focusing on your breath and heart is a powerful tool, doing this regularly will help you begin your day with energy, mental clarity and balanced emotions.
Setting yourself study goal
Always set yourself a study goal for the day which can be broken down into smaller tasks to become more manageable. This will help you stay relaxed and focused on what you need to complete.
Stick to what makes you happy
A routine is so important, if you're a gym bunny, love to run regularly, or like to have a kick around at the park keep it up. It releases happy hormones and keeps you feeling grounded. Exercise itself won't make you completely stress-free
but getting sweaty does help you to detox the emotional intensity that you have been feeling, giving your brain a re-boot and improving mental clarity.
If you are a creative sort and enjoy painting, sewing, drawing keep going. These kinds of activities will help you to zone out, giving the body and mind a much needed rest.
Let it go
Accept the things that you can't change. Your exams are coming, they will happen and then they will be over. Instead of leaking energy on worrying about them create solutions and focus on what you can control:
- Working through your revision plan and achieving your study goals
- Working through past papers
- Give it your best shot on your day.
Focusing on working through solutions will help you stay optimistic, focused on your revision and most importantly, well.
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