How to manage anxiety during a stressful exam period
The pressures of being a student are not insignificant, and there’s no time of the year that you feel this pressure more than the final exam period. For those living with anxiety, the workload and looming deadlines can be so overwhelming that it feels hard to cope.
The conventional advice on how to manage anxiety can make you stress even more when you realise how time consuming stress-relief strategies can be. If you feel like you have no spare time but you want to get a hold of your anxiety, here’s some strategies that will ensure your anxiety doesn’t get the better of you.
Challenge the anxious thoughts
Sometimes all our stress comes down to the negative thoughts that aren’t necessarily true. If you want to overcome the negative self-talk that says you’re going to fail or that you can’t do it, it’s time to challenge those thoughts.
Reach Out offers some suggestions for questions that can help you, like “What is my evidence for and against my thinking?” and “Will this matter in five years’ time?” Sometimes you might think you know nothing and you’re going to fail, but question those thoughts. What evidence is there that you're going to fail? Will it matter in five years if you only get a pass grade?
Questioning those negative thoughts can also help you also figure out where that fear is coming from. If you feel worried that you know nothing, then try changing up your study techniques until you find something that works for you. You can also turn the negative into positive self-talk.
Your first reaction might be a frantic feeling of “I don’t have time to exercise!” But it’s going to be one of the most important and helpful tools for you, so it’s worth making time for it. You’re only going to fuel your anxiety if you stay sitting in the same spot for hours, never going outside.
So instead of taking a break to look on Facebook or watch an episode on Netflix, take a walk. If you feel stressed for time, it doesn’t have to be a long one. Even a 10 or 15 minute walk or jog around the block will help. You’ll get fresh air and getting your body moving will make you feel so much better about returning to the books. Exercise breaks, no matter how small, will give you something to look forward to during your next study block.
Take deep breaths
It sounds so simple, because it is. It’s something you can do to react to a situation of panic immediately, and it won’t take long out of your precious study hours. According the Calm Clinic, “…anxiety can train your body to breathe inefficiently, causing more hyperventilation.”
They recommend taking more controlled, slow breaths if you want to improve your breathing. Step away from the desk, take a break and practice breathing in through your nose for five seconds, holding for 2, and breathing out for 7 seconds. More breaks like this will avoid panic attacks and hyperventilation, and will help calm your body and mind.
Take care of your health
We know it’s not what you want to hear, but staying up late with the help of coffee isn’t going to help. Reach Out recommends avoiding substances like “caffeine, cigarettes, coffee, no-doz, alcohol, marijuana, Ritalin, Dexamphetamine and any other drugs.” While it might seem like a short-term fix, it won’t help your mental wellbeing in the long run.
It’s also particularly helpful in this time to get a good sleep and eat well. Skipping meals or going for quick unhealthy options will zap your energy and make study that much harder. Keep healthy snacks around if you need a boost of energy, like fruit, yogurt and nuts.