Most people find exam time stressful. For some, this stress can be a motivational tool that helps them knuckle down and study, but for many, the added pressure is simply too much and it affects their health.
Stress manifests in many ways, including:
- sleepless nights
- stomach trouble
- inability to concentrate or think straight
- dizziness, shortness of breath, or racing heart
- inability to control emotions - irritability or anger
Why does this happen to me?
When we are in an uncomfortable situation, our subconscious mind wants to protect us, so it triggers our 'Fight or Flight' instinct to encourage us to get away from there as soon as possible. We need this instinct in order to survive, but when it comes to situations where we don't have a choice, like exams, it's really not helpful.
The good news is that this is a learned response based on previous experience and your subconscious can just as easily learn a new response that supports you, rather than undermines your efforts. The following tips will help you to feel calm, relaxed and confident in the lead up to and during exams, allowing you to perform at your very best.
1. Preparation is key
If you know that you have done your best in preparing for your exams, there is no need to feel stressed. Set a study timetable, and keep to it. Your mind is most effective when it is concentrating on one thing at a time, so tune out any distractions. You can reward yourself with Facebook, TV, catching up with friends once your study is complete.
2. Treat your mind like a computer
Your mind is full of files and folders of information. In order to help it easily and quickly retrieve what is relevant, prior to each study session, close your eyes and imagine opening the relevant 'subject' folder in your mind. Visualise any information that you learn being stored in an orderly fashion within this folder. Then, at the beginning of the exam, you can imagine opening this folder to access what you need.
3. Stay calm and relaxed - just breathe
When your fight or flight instinct is triggered, your cognitive 'thinking' brain shuts down because your body wants you to put all your energy into getting away from harm. So whether it is attempting to learn new information, or recalling what you've learned, it becomes difficult to think straight.
A relaxed mind is more open, so the more that you can relax during study times and in the exams themselves, the more effective you will be. Focus on taking some deep breaths before you do anything else. Make your out breath longer than your in breath and breathe into your abdomen. I recommend 5/7 breathing - in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 7, but use whatever works for you.
4. Create a 'happy place'
Just bring to mind, right now, a time and place where you felt relaxed and happy. Perhaps it was on a holiday overseas, or perhaps somewhere local that you find calming. Once you have identified this place, just imagine yourself being there in that time. Make that memory as vivid as you can. Think about what you were doing, who you were with, the colours, the sounds. Think of how this place makes you feel. Your mind doesn't know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, so notice how calm you feel just by recalling that memory.
Use this technique prior to starting your studies, or just before the exam to take away the nervous energy and feel relaxed.
5. Take the pressure off
Your best is good enough. Period. There are no perfect people, only perfect intentions. If you set your intention to do your best, then you will. Everybody is unique so avoid comparing yourself to others as their approach and experiences will be totally different to yours.
6. This time will pass
Yes it feels uncomfortable right now, but this time is just a stage in a process and in a few months it will be very much in the past. Focus on the time after exams. Even if you don't know what your end goal is yet, just think about how good it will feel when the exams are behind you and you can look forward to what the future may bring.
I hope that these tips will bring some relief during this time. I often work with young people to help them manage their stress and anxiety, using hypnosis and mind management techniques to help you cope with the pressure and perform at your best.
If you feel like you need further assistance, call 0401 871476, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message me through Facebook at Clarity Hypnosis Perth.