Guide to exam stress: how to gain calmness

help with stress management

Stress may seem simple. It happens so often and sometimes feels as if it is always there, ready to jump out at you at any second! Being stressed all the time may have made you think that feeling like that constantly is entirely natural.

However, whilst stress is a normal part of everyday life, when it takes over our lives, appears in situations that shouldn’t be overly stressful and makes it difficult to think, you may need some help to manage it. No one should be constantly stressed. Everyone deserves to feel happy, calm, and relaxed whenever they can.


what is exam stress?

This type of stress is more common in younger people. This is because their whole education is taken up by the need to pass many exams to get to the next stage of their educational journey. Often, this constant need to succeed can become overwhelming for students. Sadly, it can have a massive impact on their performance if the steps and guidance aren’t given to help the student manage their exam stress.

Exam stress is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when you get stressed to do with taking tests.

Stress is your brain and body’s method of letting you know there’s a problem or issue that needs to be handled. When it comes to exam stress, the issue is the pressure surrounding educational testing.

If we don’t take steps to address the issue, all the stress can build up and up until things become so overwhelming that our brain needs a break. Without this break, you may not be able to think properly or have any energy left to keep studying.

The first step to getting a handle on exam stress is to recognise that stress itself isn’t the enemy. 

is stress the worst thing in the world?

Not at all!

The real problem is experiencing a constant and overwhelming amount of stress. In smaller amounts, it is very important for helping us adapt to the world around us. It allows us to recognise things outside our comfort zone or are particularly important and gives us an extra boost of motivation to tackle these new problems.

Recently, stress has been talked about negatively, leading to harmful methods of thinking about and handling our stress responses. However, it is vital to remember that stress is only dangerous if it is constantly there and becomes too much for you to take. 

To take action when stress becomes too much to handle, you must begin to recognise that you are experiencing it. Stress shows itself in many ways. You could feel irritated, have trouble sleeping, and have tense shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles. Plus, the disorientation that comes with stress, the sense that you can’t think clearly or focus on anything, is often the worst symptom as it stops you from taking steps to stop further stress!

Overall, the goal is to learn how to deal with the stress of everyday life, rather than merely trying to avoid or reduce the amount of stress you come across. We must learn to use stress to improve our physical and mental health instead of harm it.

Hiyos is here to offer you some helpful and practical advice on how to handle exam stress. But first, it is essential to look at the different types of exam stress:

types of exam stress

There are different ways of experiencing exam stress, and learning to recognise where most of the pressure is coming from can help you understand what areas to focus on.

  1. Secondhand:
    1. When others expect you to ace that exam, you put more pressure on yourself than you should. This tension may also occur when others around you are stressed, and you pick up on it subconsciously. When classmates discuss a forthcoming exam and express their concerns about not being prepared, for example.
    2. Their anxiety may cause you to become concerned about your preparedness, causing you to get anxious as well. Your family may be anxious about a variety of issues right now. The following are some questions to consider: do I feel more stressed after spending time with a particular person? In a specific location? Are you having a conversation with a family member about a particular subject?
    3. To counteract this tension, you might try to restrict your time with the person or location that makes you feel anxious. If someone is making you feel anxious, talking with them and someone else about how you feel will help you better handle the strain.
  2. Environmental:
    1. The easiest approach to fight this is talking to your family and schedule times when you won’t be bothered while you study. It also helps a lot if you listen to music that is designed to help you focus.
    2. This worries me out since I know it will take me several minutes to get back into the swing of things after each interruption, and there are other things I need to take care of later, so I need to get my job done now.

how do i stop stressing over exams?

If you want to manage your stress, you must first identify it. But you also need to figure out what kind of stress you’re dealing with and what’s generating it.

You can make stress work for you instead of against you.

The majority of people do not experience test anxiety. Instead, they’re going through the typical stress of taking a test. It’s an indication that you’ll need to come up with solutions to complete the assignment. How are you going to prepare yourself to perform your best? What abilities do you need to hone in order to take on this challenge?

The emphasis is on how you perceive your stress reaction experience. According to research, if we interpret this signal as negative (e.g., I’m anxious; I can’t manage this; I’m overwhelmed), our bodies’ reaction is harmful, causing us to avoid the issue or expect others to fix the problem for us.

If we interpret the signal as positive (e.g., I’m being pushed to solve a problem; my brain and body are preparing to assist me in overcoming a significant obstacle; etc. ), our body’s reaction is healthy, helping us to prepare to adapt and change as the stress response intended.

It goes gone when you tackle the problem that the stress reaction has recognised. You’ve also gained a new skill that you can apply in the future. You’ve made a successful transition.

To stay motivated in your studies, you need to establish objectives, but you also need to permit yourself not to meet those goals or try again, especially at this time. The strategies and timelines you worked with prior to COVID-19 may no longer be feasible.

You may have to wait longer to complete your education and attain your other objectives. You must first provide yourself permission to do so. Don’t give up on your ambition or goal, but be sure you’re alright with not achieving it in the way you planned.

things you can today

Our stress reaction can be pretty severe at times (mainly if our prior tendency was to avoid stress), and strategies to reduce our stress response may be helpful at this point.

You may hire someone else to perform your “de-stressors,” or you can discover out what works best for you and do it yourself. One thing to keep in mind: determining what works best for you is not a one-time procedure. Don’t be scared to experiment with different options. Your brain will soon inform you which activities you’re doing are the most beneficial to you.


—> Get Organised:

Consider your examinations as a deadline-driven assignment. Is it true that the examinations will be held in 60 days? That is the end of your 60-day challenge. The best part is that there is a clear end in sight.

Determine the essentials, such as which examinations you have, how the grades are assigned, and how long you need to study for each one. Expect to learn a lot, but knowing where you’ll obtain your grades will help you prioritise.

Make a revision plan by breaking it down into little parts. You won’t have any more difficulties about what to work on at the start of the day after you’ve made a plan.

Make sure you have lots of spare time to relax and decompress. Nobody can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can complete the same amount of work in half the time or less if you allow yourself enough rest.

Don’t get too worked up if you are a little behind schedule – the sun will always rise tomorrow!

—> Develop Beneficial Habits

These may take time, but it’s never to early or too late to start!

These practices can help you concentrate while also lowering your stress levels:

Take a lot of breaks. According to psychologists, we can only focus adequately for 30-45 minutes. You may utilise a strategy like Pomodoro, which encourages you to take pauses on a regular basis. Don’t sit at your desk when you take a break. You could go for a quick stroll or even make a cup of tea!

Eat healthily. Eat slow-release meals like bread, rice, pasta, fruit, and vegetables to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and avoid energy highs and lows.

Make sure you get enough water. People sometimes underestimate the importance of staying hydrated.

Consider when and where you are most productive. Some people may not find the library a productive location to work since they are not morning people. There isn’t a single optimal place or time to work; it depends on what works best for you.

Continue to be active. Even a short stroll will suffice. One of the easiest and most efficient methods to de-stress is to exercise. The fresh air will cleanse your mind and energise you.

Attempt to obtain at least 8 hours of sleep every night. There are several strategies to help a good night’s sleep if you’re concerned about not being able to sleep.

Look for activities that can help you unwind. It may be a hot bath, a TV show, or a creative endeavour. Make time for this downtime in your schedule.

The worst should be studied first, followed by the finest. Many people begin with the most challenging things to have enough time to concentrate and grasp them without the extra strain of time. You’ll be less worried about studying topics you understand as the exam approaches!

—> Remove Bad Habits

Don’t create unrealistic expectations for yourself. Nobody can revise ten topics in a day! Make sure the day isn’t going to bring your mood down if you feel you haven’t accomplished enough.

Don’t deprive yourself of all pleasures. It’s easy to decide that you’ll just get down to work and “concentrate,” but this is counterproductive since it’s difficult to focus without giving your brain a break doing other activities.

Stimulants should be avoided. In the long run, caffeine, alcohol, and narcotics deplete your energy and focus. It will also make getting that much-needed rest more challenging.

—> Look Out For People Wanting To Help

Don’t be worried by friends who say they are constantly revising. This is most likely not a productive or efficient style of doing things in the long term.  Comparing oneself to others is one of the most common causes of exam anxiety.

If you have the opportunity, talk to your parents about their expectations for you. Parents that with unreasonable expectations just add to the stress. It’s a good idea to tell them what you think you’re capable of and emphasise that the best way to get there is with your parents’ support, not pressure.

If you’re frightened or worried, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or instructor. It helps to get it out of your system, and they may be able to assist you in developing practical test stress management methods.


still stressing even after the exam? Things to remember:

Regardless of how well you do in your examinations, you may still be successful in life. For example, Charlie Brooker, journalist and creator of Black Mirror, didn’t achieve the greatest exam results — and just look at him today! 

Exam accomplishment does not determine who you are. Everyone reacts differently in different situations, and your personality is so much more than how well you answer to a test.

Always remember to keep it in perspective! It may feel like the end of the world, but it never is!

Employers aren’t simply interested in your test results. They’re just as interested in your attitude, transferrable talents, and how well you’ll get along with others as they are in your qualifications.

Try to forget about a test once you’ve completed it. You can’t alter anything, and fretting won’t help you get a better grade.

Consider how far you’ve already come. You’ve already accomplished a great deal to get to this point, and quitting or failing tests now does not imply that you’ve thrown away your previous achievements.

Unsure if university is for you? Check out our article on why an apprenticeship could be the perfect fit!

need to chaT?

resources

Check out this TedTalk by Kelly McGonigal to learn more

THESITE.ORG: This is an online guide to life for 16 – 25-year-olds for everything from sex and exam stress to debt and drugs

references

The Guardian: Charlie Brooker on A Level Results

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/break

NHS: Every mind matters – Stress

Springer: Effect of individual differences in nonverbal expressiveness on transmission of emotion

Springer: Environmental stress

Lifehack: 40 simple and brilliant ways to relax and destress

Get revising: planner

Pomofocus

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3280075/