Every student can identify with the nerve-wracking experience that is exam period: frenzied hours spent in the library frantically trying to recap notes on lectures that made no sense and are still having the same effect, endless cups of coffee and an intense feeling of stress that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. Don’t despair – not only is exam stress incredibly common but also incredibly easy to fix if you’ve got some coping techniques in place.
1. Regular sleeping pattern
As we mentioned in our Ultimate Exam Guide, If your peak revision time is 2am and you’re rarely out of bed before midday, it may be worth re-thinking your sleeping pattern, especially if most of your exams begin at 9am. Forcing yourself up with a double espresso on the day may give you a boost, but you’ll most likely begin to flag around halfway through the exam which is never a good thing.
Making the effort to be in bed at a decent hour and getting your 8 hours in is a sure fire way to ensure you begin each day feeling positive. Waking up when the day’s half over will only trick your brain into thinking the chance to revise is half over as well. This will only increase stress as time goes by creating a a pattern of half- hearted revision because your sleeping pattern is out of whack.
2. Healthy Eating
It’s all too tempting to just boil the kettle and whip up a quick cup of soup or noodles when you’re immersed in exam preparation. However, not making the effort with your nutrition will ensure your brain feels equally disheartened when it’s trying to focus on those pages of notes. Simply making the effort to prepare a balanced meal during revision, not to mention drinking plenty of water, will ensure your brain gets the fuel it needs to focus when it matters most.
3. Taking breaks
Forcing yourself to cram in three hours of last minute revision the night before an exam will ensure two things: retaining very little of the knowledge, and feeling fatigued during the test.
Many scientists tell us that the brain can’t focus for longer than 45 minutes, and advise taking a 15 minute break between bursts of study. If you use Google Chrome to browse the web, try adding the “I Am Studying” app: it blocks websites you’re prone to checking into every five minutes, such as Facebook, and allows you ten minutes of “oxygen” at regular intervals.
Meditation is a widely-accepted form of relaxation. Taking just ten minutes a day to focus on reaching a sense of inner calm will help you feel reinvigorated and ready to tackle your work.
Youtube is full of videos that can help to relax the mind and refocus the brain. Simply lying down with a set of headphones, listening to the music and focusing on your breathing for ten minutes when you wake up each day will set you off to a great start.
5. Creative Journaling
If the best art you’ve ever been able to manage is an elaborate picture of a stick figure, now’s the time to see what else you can do. Creative journaling is all about drawing or writing whatever comes to mind, whether it be words, patterns, thoughts, emotions or feelings. It can be a diary, a selection of your own drawings, or a mixture of the two. Taking the time out to relax the mind and doodle on a sheet of paper will help you refocus after a revision session.
One particularly effective (and pretty) method of doing this is Zentangles – creating elaborate patterns from the everyday doodles you might make on your notepad during a lecture.
Even if you only incorporate one of these stress-busting techniques into your daily revision routine, making the effort to change how you deal with upcoming exams will make a big difference.