Exam Stress (..and how to beat it)

Exam Stress (and how to ‘beat’ it !)

Leaving Cert (and Junior Cert) stress is inevitable but, rather than being exclusively negative, stress can actually help us to perform at our best. If parents and students alike follow the tips below, the exam experience can be a positive and productive one for all involved.

1 Turn off that phone !

I bet you don’t even realise the number of times you check Facebook, Instagram or whatever your vice is? When you add it all up together, it amounts to a significant waste of time. It can be hard to detach from your life outside of studying but keeping the end goal and timeframe in mind will ease the process.

2. Let it All Out

Sometimes you just need to talk to someone, other times you need to shout it from the rooftop or scream from the top of your lungs. Figure out what you’re feeling and then let it out. Speaking to a family member or friend can highlight the bigger picture for you and empower you to rise above the exam stress.

3. Eating Dark Chocolate

Believe it or not this is 100% true. Eating dark chocolate which is over 70% cocoa fights the exam stress hormone cortisol and has an overall relaxing effect on the body. Plus chocolate releases endorphins which act as a natural stress fighter.

4. Give Your Mind Space

Meditation is one of the most effective ways to take a break and see your stress from a different perspective. Practicing meditation is another way to maintain focus while improving both mental and physical health to reduce pre-exam stress.

5. Try to Get Enough Sleep

For some people, this is something that’s always put on the long finger especially if you are trying to get the most out of college life. The benefits of a proper night’s sleep can never be underestimated. Most importantly, sleep helps your brain to assimilate new knowledge into your long-term memory so that you can recall it when it comes to test day. Anyone who has tried to concentrate with half a night’s sleep can also testify to improved focus with better sleep.

6. Play with Bubble Wrap or Puppies

Where do puppies come into exam stress? Lots of universities have installed ‘puppy rooms’ where students can come to relieve stress and anxiety. Pets have also been found to help you focus while studying but we wouldn’t recommend dropping into the library with your pet hamster! Popping bubble wrap is another stress reliever you can save for home study.

7. Take a Quick Walk

Many students feel as if they should spend their entire time before exams with their books open and their pen poised for action. However, research has proven that exercising such as taking a walk can boost your memory and brain power.

8. Listen to Classical Music

Listening to music can create a positive and productive environment by elevating your mood and encouraging you to study more effectively and for longer. Classical music is recommended as the best type of music to boost your brain power but ambient music can work too. Check out the playlists on Spotify to easily find what works for you.

  1. Hydrate

Most of us do not drink enough water. Headaches, feeling dizzy, moodiness and fatigue are just some of the symptoms related to dehydration. The recommended two litres a day should be a minimum for those doing exams. And do not forget to bring plenty of water with you into each exam

  1. Plan

Having a study plan will make you feel more in control. Remember to schedule in plenty of breaks and time for exercise. It has been shown that 90 minutes is the optimum time you should spend studying in any one session. After that, you tend to become less efficient. Have a break and then resume when you are ready. Morning time is more productive than evening time and it is preferable to get the bulk of our study done earlier in the week as our application tends to wane towards the weekend. Aim to be in tune with whatever rhythm works best for you.

Exam stress emerges as a major issue of concern in a new study that canvasses the views of thousands of secondary school students.

Most students said there was far too much emphasis on exams and not enough on group work or continuous assessment.

Almost three-quarters felt either “very stressed” or “stressed” over exams, with many complaining about pressure from the volume of homework and revision.

While students had increased stress in exam years, girls were more likely to say they were under strain, losing sleep and losing confidence, especially while studying for the Leaving Cert.

One fifth-year male student from Co Leitrim told researchers there was a need for “a proper system for mental health and exam stress… the availability of a designated person to discuss and facilitate issues and discussion”.

A fourth-year female student from Cork said they “would appreciate if there was one class a day just to take time out and focus on mindfulness and wellbeing”.

Another female student, from Dublin, added: “Stop putting unbelievable amounts of pressure on students.”

While most students say their teachers generally support them, many feel dissatisfied with the kind of feedback they get, and do not think they can talk to their teachers about worries about falling behind.

Just half of students are satisfied with the availability and quality of learning supports.

Many also feel they have little autonomy or control over what happens to them in school.

Only half of students say they feel encouraged to give their opinion in class. Most students did not feel they could explain themselves without conflict.

When broken down by gender, girls tend to be less positive about their experience of school than boys.

You are much more likely to reduce your stress levels by getting adequate sleep and a minimum of thirty minutes of vigorous exercise a day, eating a nutritious well-balanced diet, and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Your brain needs all of these things for maximum performance. It’s also important to take a good look at your stress management strategies and be honest about whether they are doing you more harm than good.

Some information taken from Irish Times website and NUI Galway website

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