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Sunday, 12 April 2015

How Not To Be Squashed By Exam Stress

Everyone knows what we mean when we say the summer term. Long gone are the happy memories of extended break time in the sun, t-shirts and shorts or summer dresses. The mixture of suncream and ice cream wafting in through the open classroom windows.

All that disappeared as most of us hit year ten, with it intensifying for year 11-13. Now when someone mentions the summer term, you see a bunch of 15-18 year olds cringing, significantly tensing up, tears welling in their stressed out eyes.

We all know that with May and June approaching, summer term turns into exam season. Counting down the days until our first exam and then to the last, before we are free! However, on some level or another, exams are known to cause a lot of distress and in the worst cases can trigger intense anxiety, depression and cause us to malfunction because we are unable to survive copious amounts of pressure that piles up as exams loom closer.

So how to survive?! Revision is a must, and the long days can sometimes be too much for people to take. Here are some tips that should get you through the summer months:

1) Each day set yourself reasonable targets of what you want to achieve. Try to set a small list of things that you know you will be able to accomplish if you stick to schedule. Some people find a timetable the most effective way to do this, but personally, a list works just find, ticking the things you have done as you go. This way at the end of each day, you will feel that you have achieved what you needed to do, and end off by feeling good about yourself and your progress instead of overwhelmed and like you are unable to meet your targets. This way you will maintain a hard working and positive attitude that will see you through the exam period.

2) Sleep. (I don't mean between 3am to 12pm.) I mean sleep long, workable hours. Aim for about eight hours a night, with an early start so that you can be productive from the beginning of the day and finish revision as early as possible. The less time spent working in the evening the better, in order to get a good break and prepare yourself for the next day. Sleep is a time for your body and your brain to get optimum rest, so don't miss out on it, because it will affect your revision outcomes.

3) Maintaining a healthy diet and drinking water. This is something that is often preached about, but seriously can actually have a big effect. It is proven that a healthy body can equal a healthy mind, and therefore, eating three good meals a day, with a snack in between can alter your progress and help you in feeling better and more productive during the day.

4) Take breaks! It is unhealthy to be stuck inside all day! I suggest working in a room with windows, natural daylight is important, and opening your window will make the room brighter and help you to focus with fresh air. After you tick off one thing on your list, take a 15-20 minute break, helping you re-cooperate and will also keep you focused when you are working. Once a day, take a longer break, say 45 minutes and go for a walk, get fresh air and some exercise, both things that have significantly improved my progress in revision.

Those are just some techniques that help me to calm down and stay focused. Exam stress for the most part is inevitable, but as long as you practise calming techniques, as listed above, you will hopefully give yourself enough breathing space to remember that you are going to do it.

I would say that the best way not to be squashed by exam stress is to remember one very important thing:

Yes, exams are important and no one is denying that. However, exams are not the only important thing. They do not define who you are as a person and what you are going to be like for the rest of your life. They do help shape your future, but there are so many other factors that shape your future, not just exams. Sometimes you just need to go for a walk or have a chat with a friend to remind yourself that life will go on, and the most important thing is that you retain your mental and physical health, not that you pass your exams but have become a wreck as well.

At the end of the day, we should not be letting a bunch of letters on a sheet of paper define who we are or what we are worth as people, and when you find yourself being swallowed up by the idea that your exams are the be all and end all, take a step out, read this post, and remind yourself that you are worth so much more that some grades on a piece of paper, and you should never forget that.

-LF, LR and MG