6 Ways to Help You Deal with Exam Stress


As the days and weeks fly by (can you believe it’s mid-May already??) and Spring eyes her closet to see which outfit would be best for Summer’s homecoming gala, it may seem like serenity is the buzz word of the season.


During the lighter months of the year I relish in getting a window seat on the train home and seeing the London skyline as the tracks lead my fellow commuters and I southbound across the river. Book reading takes a back seat until October when the darkness drapes over the city like a giant curtain way before my belly grumbles for dinner.


The lovely whispering breeze wafting honeysuckle through the air.


I didn’t always used to have this love affair with spring, in fact my 16-year-old self would’ve positively hated it. May in northern Greece is a signal for all the pine trees to shed their shyness and flaunt their lovely yellow blush. In short, pollen galore. Thick, yellow powder that would cover every balcony, every garden chair, every doormat. The tears and sniffling and stifling headaches would have been a lot easier to handle if it hadn’t also been exam time.


Yes exams, remember those? As we all look forward to meeting with friends for an al-fresco meal after work, spare a thought for all the kids (and mature students) preparing for exams. And now that I think about it, what about all those people having their driving tests or citizenship tests? Read on for some tips to help with exam stress.


1. Be prepared. This may seem slightly condescending but it never ceases to amaze me how many people wait till the night before to revise. I always started the weekend before. Jokes aside, having a realistic schedule can do wonders to alleviate the stress levels. Some people prefer blocking a whole day for one subject, allowing time for different topics. I myself liked mixing 2 different subjects during the day. The boredom of history could then be alleviated by the wonders of physics. Whatever your preference, it’s best to remember that the schedule is a tool to help you study, not to procrastinate. Don’t spend hours drawing up a beautiful timetable with different highlighters and index cards.


2. Eat well. As tempting as it may be to order that pizza after a long day of brain activity, make an effort to eat healthily. The exam stress will invariably make your body weaker, so during this period you really need to keep your health at an optimum. If you really cant eschew the convenience food for nice steamed broccoli served with grilled pork chops, take a vitamin C tablet every day. To make an occasion out of it, drop an effervescent vitamin C tab in a glass of water instead of just swallowing a capsule.


3. Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to help cope with stress. You don’t have to commit yourself to an hour at the gym, just 10 – 20 minutes walking briskly can make a difference. My friend and I used to play catch with a tennis ball; each person had to name a cranial nerve in order with each throw.


4. Sleep. Many survivors who have come out victorious swear by caffeine (be it coffee, tea, Red Bull or caffeine pills). I recommend getting some rest even if it’s only 3 hours, as the refreshed you will be able to concentrate and focus so much better. Some people may have additional stress when they worry that there’s no time to sleep, but if the awake you isn’t functioning properly, I don’t think a few hours is going to matter.


5. Take a break. You need to take a short little break every so often. Get up and go pour yourself a glass of water, make a cup of tea, wash some fruit. The activity provides a definite break in your activity and is beneficial to helping you focus when you return to your books. Just make sure the break is just that, not a whole afternoon.


6. Sometimes you may need a bit of help from the outside. The exam stress may be tiring you out, or you may have trouble sleeping. Some people get incredibly irritable and lash out, which doesn’t help as that adds a new weight on your mind. You can try

  • Aromatherapy (lavender is very calming)
  • Acupuncture to help you relax and feel revitalized,
  • A counsellor from school/uni for a bit of talking therapy or
  • A nice massage, just to treat yourself.


On the day, remember to have a light bite to eat and breathe, knowing that you’ve done everything possible to best prepare yourself.


Photo credit: Katy Warner via flickr

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