Worrying about exams- Exam stress can start when you feel you can’t cope with revision, or feel pressure from your school or family. It can seem scary to talk about stress or anxiety.
A little stress around exam time can be a good thing, as it motivates you to put in the work. But sometimes stress levels can get out of hand, particularly at the end of an academic year.
When you become stressed, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system gets switched on. Initially, this is a good thing because it is the activation of this system that releases the neurochemical adrenaline – and this stimulates you to get going and focus on your work. But the problem starts when periods of stress become prolonged.
When this happens, the sympathetic branch stays permanently on, pouring adrenaline into the body and keeping you on high alert. This reason you to worry more, experience anxiety and depression, lose sleep, become forgetful, irritable, overwhelmed, exhausted and feel out of control. This can really impact on your capability to prepare for your assignments and exams, as well as negatively affect your levels of performance and sense of well-being.
A simple and very practical step is to develop a plan of action by preparing well and organizing your time and workloads. This will help address that “out-of-control feeling”. A second step is to begin to understand the physiological responses going on in your body and try to adjust them.
Mindfulness is a more advanced technique, focused on being fully present at the moment and experiencing what is going in and on around you as that moment unfolds. When you learn how to do this, you find you are capable to focus your attention on the task at hand – in this case, your assignments or exams. Mindfulness also helps you to practice feeling calm in the mind and the body by releasing those neurochemicals that switch on the parasympathetic branch of the automatic nervous system.
A real positive of all these techniques is that they teach you to become aware of what you are actually thinking at any one time. Thoughts are frequently negative harbingers of failure and fear. Once you are aware of this, you can learn to adjust negative thinking into a more positive stance or to let them flow over you rather than control you.
Balancing how you spend your time is also essential. Eating well, engaging in physical exercise, taking breaks from study and getting enough sleep all ensure that your stress levels are kept under control.