Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Exam Stress

By Kerry Swarts
Taking exams is bound to be stressful because of what's at stake. You may be feeling a weight of expectation from your family, school, university or workplace to succeed. You may be afraid you're not good enough, or haven't worked hard enough. You may be scared of letting yourself down, or that you'll miss out on a job, university place or career move. Your pre-exam nerves may seem much worse if you are doing exams for the first time or after a long gap, if English is not your first language or if you have particular learning difficulties. Nor do exams exist in isolation; there may well be other events going on in your life that are putting you under pressure. If your stress levels rise too high for too long, it can be harmful both to you and to your chances. Everybody's stress 'threshold' is different. Sometimes our stress levels get out of hand. This can stop us performing at our best. And mess with our body as well as our mind. A situation that is too much for one person to tolerate may be stimulating to another. Controlled at the right level, however, stress can work to your advantage, because it can help you to produce your peak performance.

What are the Symptoms?
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Constant tiredness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Poor appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness

If you've noticed three or more of the above symptoms and you've experienced them for a few weeks you may need to do something about your stress levels

So how should I deal with stresss?
Take regular breaks when studying, get up and walk around, this will send oxygen up to your brain and will make the next 30 minutes worthwhile.
Studying in quick bursts is more effective then slogging at it for 3 straight hours - you will only remember the first 30 minutes anyway.
Learn to recognise when you're stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you're under will get things into perspective. 
Avoid comparing your abilities with your mates. Everyone approaches revision in different ways, so just make sure you've chosen the method that works best for you. Make a realistic timetable. Stick to it.
Eat right. Treat yourself like a well honed machine. Fresh fruit and veg. Proper breakfasts. No one can think straight on Coffee and Cornflakes.
Sleep well. Wind down before bed. Don't revise under the duvet - your bed is a sanctuary not a desk. Get your 8 hours.
Exercise. Nothing distresses the mind faster than physical activity. Build it into your timetable. Being a sloth makes our mind sloppy too.
Quit the bad habits. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Never stopped anyone being stressed for long.
Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (ie quick, shallow breaths). So if you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breath in and out through the nose. Counting to five each way.
Steer clear of any exam 'post-mortem'. It doesn't matter what your mate wrote for Question 7(b). It's too late to go back and change your answers, so it will just make you worry even more.
Ultimately, don't lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won't last forever.

Brain Harmonics can teach you how to focus and concentrate better, we can also teach you memory pegging techniques, how to think in pictures, filter out distractions all while your brain is getting feedback and building new neural pathways. Call us to find out more.

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