10 ways to avoid exam stress

A lot of students find the aftermath of the mock exams tough, as pressure begins to mount. Now is the time to develop the right habits which will ease stress and allow you to study in the most effective and productive way. Below you’ll find our top 10 ways to avoid letting stress affect your preparation for the exams.

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.

2. Sleep

The importance of sleep, in terms of both quantity and quality, is generally very underrated. Sleep (or lack of it) has a huge bearing on all aspects of our health, including our mental sharpness and ability to retain information, so it is vital that you ensure you regularly get a good night’s sleep.

3. You’re not alone!

When we are feeling stressed, it is sometimes easy to forget that everyone feels stress from time to time. Edginess, nerves and feelings of dread are totally normal and in fact are to be expected when you are preparing for an event as important as the State Examinations. The key is your reaction to these feelings and not allowing them to overwhelm you. Reminding yourself that you’re not the only one having these feelings can help.

4. Breathe

When you feel your mind is becoming scrambled, simply stop and breathe slowly. By slowing down your breathing, you are slowing down your thoughts. This will make you feel more in control. Here is a simple exercise to help slow your breathing: breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold for four seconds. Breathe out through the mouth for eight seconds. Take three of these slow breaths. It only takes about a minute.

5. Exercise

It is a huge mistake to allow your exercise routine to fall by the wayside when you start feeling pressure to study. At least 30 minutes of some form of exercise every day helps enormously in clearing your mind and helping you to relax.

6. Be mindful

In essence, mindfulness is about focusing on the present and on what you can control right here, right now. Psychologists have identified that we spend far too much time regretting past actions and worrying about future events. Ninety five per cent of what we worry about never happens anyway. Developing a habit of catching yourself when you find your mind drifting into the past or future will help you to stop worrying and to really focus on the task in front of you.

7. Drink water

Most people do not keep themselves adequately hydrated during the course of the day. This is even more important when studying, as our brain function slows down when we are even slightly dehydrated. You should aim to drink a bare minimum of two litres of water per day.

8. Talk

We all talk to ourselves, whether out loud or internally. Often at times of stress, this voice becomes very negative. We tell ourselves we’re not good enough or that we’re not working hard enough. Aim to challenge this voice. Be gentle on yourself and point out some positive things about yourself. Think about what you would say to a friend who told you they were having trouble with stress. And don’t forget, talking to family or friends about problems we’re having always helps immeasurably.

9. Avoid excess caffeine

Caffeine increases anxiety and mood fluctuation, which are the last things you need when getting ready for exams. It may be difficult to eliminate it altogether, but try to replace your caffeine habit with alternatives such as herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee, water and healthy snacks such as nuts and fruit.

10. Parents – stay relaxed

The atmosphere in the home is of huge importance coming up to exam time. Parents should try to maintain a relaxed, positive and supportive mood. In doing so, they give their children a much better chance of excelling in their studies and in their exams.

To assist students with their exam preparation, The Dublin School of Grinds is running intensive, exam-focused Easter Revision Courses. For more details and to book, click here.