Exam stress

As we move towards the end of the year, many people have exams approaching. It doesn’t matter whether you are still at school, or at TAFE or university – exam stress can be very real.

What is stress?

A definition from healthdirect.com.au

“Stress is an expected human response to challenging or dangerous situations. Humans have evolved over time to be able to experience a range of stressors and recover from them.”

There are several types of stress:-

Good stress: this comes from facing a challenge that we feel is within our capabilities, or perhaps stretching our capabilities by a small amount. This stress is generally good for us, as it creates excitement and motivation. (Some people consider exam stress in this category, and consider the exams as a challenge to show how much they have learnt).

Short term stress: this is present only for a brief period, and is usually related to a specific situation. (Exam stress also fits in this category).  

Chronic stress: this is present for a long time, and may be caused by a situation which has little chance of changing or improving quickly. This stress can damage our health.

What are the symptoms of exam stress?

The following are some of the symptoms of exam stress, but there can be more…

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches and ‘butterflies in stomach’
  • Feeling sick
  • Weak immune system
  • Increased heart-rate and high blood pressure
  • Worry
  • Anger and irritability
  • Low self esteem and lack of confidence 
  • Loss of appetite or over-eating on junk foods
  • Insomnia
  • Spending all of our time studying
  • Not giving time to relax
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Unable to plan
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of focus
  • Stressful habits (e.g. hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting)

Why do we experience it?

Some of the reasons include the following:-

  • We find the subject we are studying difficult to understand
  • We feel unprepared for the exam, perhaps due to insufficient time to study
  • We feel under pressure to excel in the exam (from ourselves or others)
  • We have stress in other areas of our life

Hypnotherapy can help with these issues by enabling students to relax, retain more information, and focus on revision. If you or your family members (adults and children 12 years and older) are studying for exams, have a chat to Lisa at Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy to learn more.

Managing exam and study stress

The following are some ideas on managing stress which have worked for others…

  • Have a dedicated, quiet space to work, and have the materials that you need close by.
  • Review old exam papers if they are available and ensure that you know the areas of your subject that are included in the exam (you may have covered topics in class which are not in the exam)
  • Practice writing essays within the time allocated within the exam.
  • ‘Visual’ people can use ‘mind maps’ to display the key points in a diagram.
  • Create a plan (e.g. using a spreadsheet or word processing software) to ensure that you cover all areas of the subjects for your exams. Allocate one topic per revision period, and also schedule regular breaks.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet – limit junk food and do not increase your caffeine intake.
  • Build in regular breaks, and reward yourself when you achieve your study goals. Some people prefer to split the day into morning, afternoon and evening. They then revise for two of the three time periods (with brief breaks), and have a longer break for the third period. An example is to revise morning and afternoon, then have the evening off to enjoy socialising or watching a film.
  • Allow yourself time to rest and ensure you are getting sufficient sleep.
  • Study for 20-minute chunks of time, and then have 5 – 10 minutes rest (Pomodoro technique).
  • Agree to revise a specific area of study with your classmates. You could explain the topics to each other, or test each others’ knowledge. This allows you to socialise while revising and can counteract the isolation that sometimes affects students when revising. But keep the discussion focussed on work while you are revising.
  • ReachOut.com (https://au.reachout.com/articles/stress-swaps) has some more ideas of how to incorporate enjoyable activities into your study.
  • If you feel stressed, use relaxation techniques. Some of these can be used ‘in the moment’ when you are stressed to help regain focus. See my earlier blogpost on this for some ideas.

If you or a member of your family would like some specific help with focus, relaxation, stress management or exam confidence, have a chat to Lisa at Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy to see how she can assist.


References

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stress

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/types-of-stress

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stress-symptoms

https://www.qld.gov.au/youth/health-looking-after-yourself/mental-health-support-counselling/managing-your-thoughts/exam-stress

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

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