How to go from exam stress to success
It is coming up to that time of year again. The nice weather, studying and exams always seem to go together in Ireland.
Clients come to me around this time every year, asking for help with pre-exam nerves so they can study better and do and be their best.
Here are my top 12 steps for exam success to help you prepare for yours.
1. Give Self-care priority. If you want the best out of yourself, you have to give the best to yourself. That involves eating well, daily sunlight, regular breaks from study (10 to 15 minutes every two hours) and being kind to yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink plenty of water. And do something to relax and switch-off daily.
2. Think positively about your exams, yourself and your future. If you find yourself thinking negatively reframe it to a positive.
3. Do a general study plan and one for each day and adjust as you need. Sticking to a plan will build confidence and alleviate stress. Don't think too far ahead. And when it comes to the exams, set an intention that you do your best in each exam with what you know.
4. Meditate. Be mindful and take a few mindful breaths before and as a break in your study sessions. This will calm you and help you focus better. Start this now, so you are well practiced for your exam days.
5. Minimise social media. Social media fragments your attention span and makes it harder to focus for longer periods which is what you need to do in exams.
6. As you get closer to the exams, make your study sessions more like exams or study in exam-like conditions. This is particularly helpful for those that get nervous and do not do themselves justice on exam days.
7. Be careful who you spend time with. If others around you are panicking and you are prone to exam stress, minimize speaking to them about exams or spending too much time with them. Stress is contagious. Even some people that are super confident may stress you. You know who and what types of people and conversations affect you. Look after yourself and avoid or minimise such situations.
8. When you feel stressed, ask yourself if there is anything you can do about it. If there isn't let it go, and if there is, act. If the answer is study, get studying. This will alleviate your stress and prepare you for a strong result. Double benefits.
9. Exercise. Do something that gets you moving and that you enjoy every day. A five or 10 minute walk or stretch can work wonders. Go for a longer cycle, swim, walk or run a few times a week.
10. Take care of logistics. Do a good study plan that covers what you need and as you get closer to the exams, make sure you are clear on your timetable and have everything you need ready for each day well in advance to avoid any last-minute panic.
11. Don't increase your caffeine, energy drink or sugar intake to survive. They can adversely affect your concentration, anxiety levels, general wellbeing and sleep.
12. Avoid post-mortems that stress you out. Reflect on how you handled the exam. If you feel your exam technique could have been better - handling of time etc. learn from that and apply in the next exam. Take time to disengage emotionally from each exam and close that chapter before you resume study or get into the next one.