Many students, both young and old, suffer from examination related stress, before, during and after examinations. Stress is not always harmful. In fact a certain level of stress is required to perform optimally in an examination. In this brief article, I will provide some tips for students to overcome examination related stress.
What is Stress?
The Webster's Dictionary defines stress as an "emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension." A practical way of defining stress is the feeling one gets from prolonged pent up emotions. If the emotions you experience are pleasant and desirable - joy, ecstasy, delight - you usually feel free to let them show. Therefore, positive emotions do not usually cause stress. Negative emotions, on the other hand are more often held inside. They are hidden and you suffer quietly and experience stress.
Now that you have an understanding of stress, it is important to identify the signals of stress. The chances are that if you are experiencing long term stress, you may or may not be aware of it. Even if you are, you may choose to avoid facing up to your problems.
Symptoms of examination
Firstly there are a host of physical symptoms such as dryness of the throat or mouth, insomnia, feeling constantly tired, inability to concentrate, pounding of the heart, chronic pain in the neck or back and difficulty in breathing.
In addition to physical symptoms there are also mental ones. Moodiness, and depression are the two most common. You may be depressed and not realize it. Depression is an emotional disorder, that is marked by unexplained sadness, inactivity and a feeling of emptiness.
Tips and Techniques to handle
examination related stress
The most important technique is to be well prepared, well in advance of the examination. Regular self study, answering past questions, mock examinations etc., are great ways to be well organised and prepared. Remember that many students follow this method and succeed at their exams with flying colours
Maintaining good health also helps to effectively deal with stress. Regular exercise can help to relieve stress. Activities such as moderate walking, can relieve tension and relax your body.
Meditation and/or yoga is a good way of relaxing the mind. Mind related stress is quite often more difficult to handle than body related stress. Meditation is ideal when you wake up in the morning or as the last thing before going to bed. 15 - 20 minutes is adequate, if you have a proper mind focus.
A healthy diet is another important element of stress reduction. Most medical experts agree that cutting down on fatty meats, dairy products, sweets and salt will help to relieve stress. It is generally recommended that eating more fruits, veggies, poultry and fish has a calming effect on a stressed person.
Handling examination stress just before and during the exam
The last few hours before an examination can be a very anxious period. Many negative thoughts spring up - will I fail? What if I get questions, I have not prepared for? Will I be able to manage the time given? These are normal, but clever students quickly convert them to positive thoughts, by reflecting on their efforts and preparation. What is the worst thing that can happen at an exam? Failure. Fear of failure is the most significant cause of pre-examination and post examination stress. Always remember that failure teaches you more than success. Failures are pillars of success. It is better to love and lose than not love at all.
At the exam you can reduce the stress levels by arriving early and settling down in the examination hall. Keep thinking about positive aspects as you await the examination paper, such as success, happiness and career development. Take a religious book with you to the exam if it helps you to feel secure and comfortable. Once you receive the examination paper, attempt the questions that you are well prepared for. As you answer these questions, anxiety will disappear and you will become more confident.
Take a few deep breaths throughout the duration of the examination and keep talking / motivating your self.
Once the exam is over, forget all about it and really unwind. Worrying about what happened will not help - it is water under the bridge! De-stress through music, exercise, enjoying with friends and just relaxing.
In this brief article, I have endeavoured to outline the dimensions of stress and how to manage it.
"When under stress, stay calm and collected."