Reducing Anxiety and Stress Over the Exam Period
With Term 3 steadily approaching at Warwick, it’s almost that time to hit deadlines and tackle exams.
As each year has gone by, I’ve learnt that stress is an inevitable part of life. Even during my Year Abroad, I did not have exams to worry about but instead, felt anxious about planning lessons as part of my role as an English Assistant. The experience this taught me was that, ultimately, learning to deal with stress is a skill you will take away with you for life. So, what better time to put stress-management skills to practise than during the exam period?
It’s tempting to have an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach. You convince yourself that it’s just this month that you’ll excuse yourself for becoming a hermit, eating junk food and consuming endless amounts of caffeine. The irony of the situation is, in doing this you jeopardise the one thing causing you to behave so frantically in the first place : achieving good grades and meeting your deadlines with success.
I get it. The pressure is immense. But, one thing I’ve understood about myself is that everyone has different ways of coping with their stress – and whilst becoming reclusive and neglecting health might yield results, the truth is it’s not sustainable and the chances are you’ll achieve equally good results by taking a less extreme, more self-caring approach.
You don’t have to research far to learn that there is a general consensus that exercise is good for your body and mind. This doesn’t necessarily mean killing yourself at the gym. Even simply by going for a walk regularly, or dancing about in your room, or skipping outside – you keep your metabolism running smoothly and blood pumping around your veins. This is generally good for reducing levels of fatigue and tiredness, and boosting moods of energy and happiness.
I can speak from personal experience in saying that I experience the most lows and dips in energy when I have been most inactive for long periods of time. I love my days in – but those steps are important to keeping my mental health and happiness in check. Plus, a bit of fresh air never hurts. Don’t underestimate the power of moving!
Feed the brain – what does that even mean? Turns out, all those facts that ‘healthy eating’ articles dish out about consuming wholegrains and proteins may just hold some valid points. Whilst I am not a proponent of healthy eating just for the purpose of attaining aesthetic results, I am a proponent of using the right tools to fuel your mood. It turns out that the food you eat can have strong effects on either boosting or reducing your mood. Check out this TED talk on food as brain fuel for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyQY8a-ng6g
Whilst the human brain only makes up 2% of our body weight, it uses up to 20% of our energy resources.
That’s right! There is actually a non weight-loss related reason you should make an effort to incorporate more wholegrains and wholefoods and healthy fats into your diet. Whilst junk food may make us feel good in the moment, the long term effects of white, processed foods is a momentary spike in energy, and then a long-lasting dip that reduces your attention-span and productivity levels. It might be why you’ve ever felt hungover the morning after a sugar-binge, or the reason you’ve fallen asleep after eating too much chocolate or other comfort snack. Meanwhile, all those other ‘healthy’ foods may actually serve a purpose in increasing productivity and happiness. And… increased productivity levels and happier moods = lower levels of stress, am I right?On another note – this is also why it is important to eat enough. Skipping out on meals can lead to poorer levels of sleep and concentration; which is actually disadvantageous to revision success.
Keep up a hobby
Netflix is a great distraction – but 100% screen time was good for nobody, ever. Finding other ways to de-stress and take a break is kind of necessary for keeping your soul alive. My personal revision break tends to incorporate exercising as that kills two birds with one stone. However, I had a great time at a colouring wellbeing session at Warwick library; and I love to sketch from time-to-time. I’ve also been tutoring online as means of earning money and taking a break from my own revision; sometimes, teaching something to others puts teaching things to yourself in perspective.
I tend to embrace my introverted side during exam season as I am rarely in a mood to be seen in my revision state, and it can feel like seeing people takes out too much time. However. No-one realistically spends 24 hours of the day studying. And it’s important to eat, right? I’ve enjoyed going out for dinner, meeting friends for a break or being surrounded by my family this Easter break. I’ve taken time out to have actual conversations and keep my mind stimulated with things that aren’t just revision focused. Honestly, I’ve noticed an increase in my productivity levels when I dosit down to concentrate as a result, and I’ve felt happier for it.
All in all, my final year exam preparation has felt far more relaxed than any previous year despite having a heavy workload and the pressure of finals. I guess my experience has taught me that nothing is worth de-prioritising your mental and physical well-being over. It’s strange but I feel like I’ve been more productive even if I have spent less hours in one place studying.
So, my advice for you would be: even if you’re stressed about work, make time for these things. If you need to justify it to yourself, remember: studies are conclusive to showing that exercise, wholesome foods and socialising are all conducive to better study performance, reduced tiredness levels and boosted levels of happiness and energy – and so, productivity.
I hope this has been an interesting read and helpful in some ways. I want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong, and there are many things right with taking time out for yourself . Don’t let that inner guilt-trip voice tell you otherwise! 🙂
Good luck and best wishes with your revision.