Stress before an exam is completely normal, and sometimes a bit of adrenaline can even be a good thing. But it’s no secret that too much stress will hinder your performance and your results could suffer. Which is why Cat Williams, a counsellor, has some expert advice for trying to keep your stress under control when it comes to the big day.
Work out exactly why you’re stressed
“The key to staying calm in an exam is to keep your fear in perspective”, she told Cosmopolitan UK. “An exam can be a threat to our self-esteem. What if we don’t do well? How will we feel about ourselves? What will other people say? What will the short or long-term consequences be for our future?
“These worries aren’t helpful in terms of our ability to focus on the exam ahead, so we must keep them in perspective. Those people who ‘take exams in their stride’ are the ones who appear not to care, whether they actually do or not; we can learn from their thoughts and behaviour. “
Before you walk into the exam hall, remind yourself that you have done everything you could, you’ve worked hard, know the right information and deserve to do well. Confidence is key.
Find the methods of keeping calm that work for you
Cat advises trying out the following, and finding the combination of methods that work for you – it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’.
1. “Take slow, deep breaths and imagine that you are breathing in warm, calming air, and breathing out self-doubt”, she says, because being shallow in breath is a sure fire way to stress yourself out. Sit back and really concentrate on your breathing, inhaling for five, and exhaling for five, until you’re in a steady rhythm.
2. “Use any ‘good luck charms’ that might help you to feel confident and calmer”, Cat continues – because even if it is just a placebo effect, it’s nice to know you’ve got your favourite underwear on, right?
3. “Repeat the below phrases to yourself as often as necessary, until you feel calm”, the counsellor adds. Remind yourself of positive mantras until they ring true.
- ‘I have done my best, even if I feel I could have revised more, feeling this way is normal”
- ‘I will be okay, whatever happens, this exam will not be the only defining point in my life, I can only do my best and accept the result”
- ‘I am no worse, or better, than anyone else, whatever my/or their ability is, I do not need to be defined simply by how I successful I am in an exam, there is more to me than that’.
- ‘I will do well, I can do this, I can remain calm and confident”.
4. Exercise. There’s no better way to clear the mind and take a step back from your stress than getting the endorphins going and working up a bit of a sweat during a revision break.
5. Eat well and fuel your body right. It’s so easy to reach for the sugary snacks when you’re exhausted or feel like you need a treat, and while you absolutely should have them if you feel like they’re what you need, be aware of what you fuel your body with and try to avoid any sugar spikes or carb crashes.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others. But you knew that about life in general already, didn’t you? Getting caught up in how much revision someone else says they’ve done or what they got in the past paper isn’t going to achieve anything for you, other than making you freak out over how well you may or may not be doing.
Remind yourself of the light at the end of the tunnel
Ultimately, though it might feel like the whole world right now, you have to remember that exam season won’t last forever. There is life after exams. You will make it through. You’ve put in the hard work, and exams are not the end of the world, whatever the outcome.