As exam season approaches it's natural to feel anxious. Exams, or other forms of stress can have a real impact on health and wellbeing. Stress can enhance your performance if managed well, but could also get in the way of being able to do the best that you can. Try following these 3 tips to manage the stress as well as possible, stay healthy and make sure that you do the best you can do on the day.
1. Prioritise Self-Care.
It can be easy to forget the basics, but the fact is that when you are under pressure looking after yourself is more crucial than ever. Make sure that you are getting regular exercise, eating well and allowing yourself time for a good night's sleep. It's also a good idea to take frequent short breaks from your revision. The time that you spend following healthy habits will pay dividends in terms of improved efficiency, energy levels and alertness.
2. Keep Perspective. (Don't believe everything you think)
It is very common at times of high stress to have frequent thoughts about absolutely everything that could go wrong. Students often will worry that they are not good enough, don't know anything and that everyone else is better prepared than they are. The reason that thoughts like this are so common is that our thoughts naturally link to the way that we feel. So at times of stress your mind is likely to be full of stressful thoughts (and stressful thoughts can contribute to more stress).
The important thing is to remember that thoughts like this are opinions, not facts. One of the problems with thoughts is that we tend to believe them without question when, in fact, they are not at all reliable in telling us the truth. Our own experience is a much more reliable gauge than anything that our mind tells us when we are stressed. Perhaps you might have had similar thoughts at stressful times in your life and things didn't turn out as bad as you thought? Or you might notice that when you feel happier, or after a good night's sleep things don't seem so bad.
It isn't always possible (and can be counterproductive) to fight against thoughts. It's not necessary either. The best thing is to let them be there but learn to take them with a pinch of salt without assuming that because you are thinking them they must be true.
3. Ground yourself
Grounding is a useful method of bringing a bit of stability to your life when you need it. Follow these steps, first to learn the technique and then later whenever you feel that you could benefit from feeling a bit more steady.
Firstly shift around and find a comfortable position. You could be sitting, standing or lying down. Bring your attention into your body and notice all of the ways that the body moves with each breath.
Then, with a breath out shift your attention into your feet, or somewhere else where you feel contact between the body and the ground. Pay as much attention as you can to this firm feeling. Imagine that as you breathe in the air is moving down your body into your feet, lighting up your awareness of all of the feelings in your feet. As you breathe out, imagine that the air is coming out of your feet and into the ground.
Do this for about 8 breaths. You may find it helpful to count to 7 each time you breathe in or out, pausing for a moment at the end before the next breath.
After you have grounded yourself can be a good time to ask yourself, what would be the most helpful thing I could do now.
Above all, remember that while exams are always challenging you have come through challenges before. Using these 3 tips will help you to look after your emotional health so that you can be in the best possible position to show what you have learned.