It is that time of the year when we throw caution to the wind and binge on coffee, depriving ourselves of sleep for a good number of days, just to prepare for the coming exams.
You may think that this is a sensible way to cram for your exams since it is a break from your usual lazy ways. You might also convince yourself that abruptly changing your routine will lead you to change some key behavioural traits in your favour during the run-up to your exams.
We hate to be the ones who break it to you, but unfortunately, you thought wrong. Indulging in haphazard last-minute measures never bode well. We are afraid there is no quickfire method to success, and your best bet would be to prepare a meticulous plan, well in advance, and stick by it.
Stress is Natural, but how will you Deal With it?
Irrespective of how much you like a particular subject or discipline, you are bound to be a little nervous when you know exams are right around the corner and you haven't started preparing. Whether this nervousness dies down or escalates into something more serious, that is another discussion altogether.
To put matters in perspective, it has emerged that last year, against the backdrop of the pandemic when mental health concerns were at an all-time high, almost 28 students in India died by suicide every day. Mental health is an extremely real concern in today’s fast-paced times, and it would be in our best interests to take the signs very seriously.
To begin with, we would like to clarify that a positive form of stress, known as eustress can be a good thing, it could very well be the motivational push we need to get things done. However, too much of anything is bad for you.
Let's consider some ways how you can nip such mental health concerns in the bud.
Don't Forget to Breathe
Setting aside some minutes daily to practice mindfulness techniques help you to calm down your body's stress response and shift your attention back to the present. In turn, this gives you time to rationally think through the anxieties you have, rid yourself of unhelpful thought patterns and enables you to deal with a large number of exams and begin more effective revision.
Eat, Sleep and Exercise
Pulling all-nighters, surviving on a poor diet, and slouching on your desk throughout the day can increase and bring to the fore symptoms of anxiety. For your body's best performance, make sure you get:
- At least eight-nine hours of sleep
- Enough slow-release carbs
- Less caffeine and more water
- At least half an hour of exercise every day
Step out of Your Comfort Zone, and Your Room
While you may think that the best way to deal with exam anxiety is by studying for hours, that is not the case. Your brain needs to relax to be able to process what you are reading, interpret and consume information.
According to the research conducted by Dr Chuck Hillman from the University of Illinois, a simple 20-minute walk will give your brain the break it needs to deal with exam stress.
The Importance of Realistic Goals
Setting realistic goals, whether you have several weeks, days or even hours before your exam, helps you put everything into perspective. While we would not recommend that you start preparing for your exam just hours before you enter the exam hall, acceptance of your situation and working within the realms of what you have will maximise your productivity without the risk of burning yourself out.
You are not alone!
A 2004 research paper noted that revising with peers is an effective study technique as it allows you to absorb your notes better.
(Source: "The Impact of Peer Assessment on Academic Performance: A Meta-analysis of Control Group Studies")
Even though the findings are 17 years old, we are sure you would agree with it; it is always better to study with someone. Furthermore, the emotional benefits of social support include a better sense of confidence and autonomy.
Guide Yourself Through Your Paranoia
Panicking before, during or even after an exam is common among those who are set to appear in exams. If you experience it at any point:
- Take six deep breaths
- Hydrate yourself
- Go back to the problem at hand
Don’t forget to break it down into several, manageable chunks; there is usually a rational solution to every problem, even if you can't see it right away!
Believe in yourself
When we come face to face with a new challenge, we often forget to look back and consider how far we have come and how much we have already achieved. Given that you have prepared adequately, you have no reason to worry.
Talk to someone
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In some cases, it can help save a life. When struggling, talk to friends, family, or your personal tutor about how you are feeling. If needed, don't be afraid to seek professional help and support.
There is someone who is rooting for you from the sidelines. Could be your parent, sibling, friend or even your mentor. You might not realise this right now, but you are not alone.
Good luck, you’ve got this!