The run-up to your exams can be a stressful time: making page upon page of notes, writing practice answers and endlessly wondering whether you’ve done enough work to get the grades you want. With all this pressure we put on ourselves to succeed, it’s easy to end up feeling stressed.
If you’re currently preparing for your end of year exams and feeling a little overwhelmed, here are ten top tips for tackling stress.
1. Set realistic targets
Before you get started on your revision, you need to consider what your targets should be for each day. It’s really important to make these targets realistic; if you set yourself too much work and you keep failing to meet your targets, this will leave you feeling more stressed than before.
For example, if you have six topics to revise assign two days for each one. That way each subject is getting the attention it needs and you’re not overwhelming yourself with too much information at any one time. This should help keep your stress levels low.
2. Manage your time efficiently
Managing your time effectively ties in with setting realistic targets – preparing a revision schedule is an easy way to reduce your chances of feeling stressed. It’ll give you clear direction, and something to focus on each day.
Keeping on top of your workload will help you feel in control, which is an important part of avoiding stress. Working to a timetable may feel regimented but it will help you prioritise. It will also help you adjust to managing your own time, which you’ll be expected to do frequently once you pass your exams and start your first job.
3. Get a good amount of sleep
It’s common knowledge that students often stay up all night, fitting in some last minute revision because they feel like they haven’t done enough already. If this sounds like something you do, your stress levels are likely to increase as a result of your late-night revision sessions.
There are many studies that link quality of sleep with stress levels. The general rule is that the better your quality of sleep the less stressed you’ll feel, so it’s essential to get a decent night’s sleep in the run up to your exams, especially the night before. If you follow the two steps above, there shouldn’t be a need to stay up all night, after all!
4. Get some fresh air
It is scientifically proven that green environments are soothing for the mind. If you’re feeling like you’ve been cooped up revising for too many hours, it’s a good idea to get some fresh air to clear your mind.
If you live near the countryside that’s ideal, but heading to your local park can have the same effect. As long as you’re outdoors, you should feel significantly less stressed; trees and bushes generate oxygen, so taking a stroll in a green area is good for your general health.
5. Stop relying on caffeine and nicotine
Energy drinks, coffee and cigarettes act as stabilisers for a lot of people when they’re experiencing times of stress. When you’re addicted to caffeine or nicotine, you tend to believe that these substances help relieve your stress. The reality is, they don’t.
According to mentalhealth.org.uk ‘research into smoking and stress has shown that instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension’. Instead of reaching for a coffee and a cigarette during your study sessions, drink lots of water to keep hydrated.
6. Be active
Whether it’s a team sport, going to the gym, swimming, or even taking a brisk walk around the park, it’s important that you find the time to fit some exercise into your day. When it’s time to revise, you might think that exercising is a waste of valuable time, but being active will make you feel a whole lot better.
Physical activity is known to reduce overall stress levels, and can relieve tension and anxiety. Even if you decide to dedicate just half an hour out of your day to exercise it can help you to de-stress, improving your concentration once you get back to revising.
7. Talk to a friend
If you’re feeling stressed about your exams, the chances are that your friends feel the same. Take some time to socialise, and talk to friends about your worries. Sometimes it’s easier to relax once you’ve verbally expressed what troubles you.
If you and your friend study the same subject, you might be able to lend each other a hand – if you’re good at different topics you can learn from each other. You could also try testing each other’s knowledge by creating word association games or quizzes – it all depends how you learn best.
8. Try some stress-relieving foods
There are several foods that are said to be good stress relievers, including green, leafy vegetables. Romaine lettuce, kale and cabbage are all good examples but spinach is probably the best as it is high in magnesium, a mineral which can help you feel calm. It also contains fibre, which is good for when you need an energy boost.
Other foods known for decreasing stress are pistachio nuts, blueberries, salmon and citrus fruits. Dark chocolate has also proved itself as a stress buster; a study carried out by the Nestle Research Center concluded that eating dark chocolate every day for two weeks lowered peoples’ levels of stress hormones, cortisol and catecholamine.
9. Do something you enjoy
Always schedule a little time to do something you enjoy. While you should work hard in the run-up to your exams, relaxation is a vital part of stress relief. If you give yourself something to look forward to it will act as motivation and enhance your performance.
Whether it’s a meal out at the end of the week, or smaller incentives like an hour watching television after a morning of revision, doing something you enjoy will help break up the monotony of revision, and will help you wind down once you have achieved your goal.
10. Recall a time when you succeeded
If the stress is making you feel pessimistic about the performance you’re able to give in exams, try thinking back to a time when you succeeded in an exam, or at something else. It will give you the confidence boost you need. After all, the likelihood is that if you’ve already made it this far, you’re more than capable of reaching the goals you set yourself.