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Handling Examination Related Stress

What is stress?

Stress External Website that opens in a new window is the reaction people have to excessive demands or pressures, such as passing exams. You may find it difficult to cope with tasks, responsibilities or other types of pressures or you might get anxious trying to meet such demands.

How do I recognize that I am under stress?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I suffering from?
    • headaches
    • loss of appetite
    • forgetfulness
    • aches and pains for no apparent reason
    • increased anxiety and irritability
    • increased heart rate
    • blurred vision
    • dizziness
    • difficulty in going to sleep or difficulty in waking up in the morning
  • Do I?
    • feel tired all the time
    • feel sick
    • show social withdrawal
    • exhibit loss of interest in activities
    • find it difficult either to relax or to concentrate
    • feel physical sensations, such as chest pains, muscle cramps, pins and needles, dizziness or fainting and stomach problems

If your answer is yes to most of the questions you may be suffering from Stress. Panic can sometimes produce physical sensations which may worry and alarm you. Sometimes, too much stress can trigger other problems, including panic attacks, depression, drug abuse, eating distress or self-harming behaviour. It's important to talk to someone about these, and to get appropriate help, if necessary.

Why do I get stressed during exams?

Feeling stressed is a natural response to pressure. The body releases chemicals into the bloodstream that make you feel nervous and edgy. Muscles tense, ready for action and the heart beats faster to carry blood to the muscles and the brain. You breathe faster, sweat more and your mouth becomes dry. Hormones, such as adrenalin, cause these physical reactions. This automatic response is known as the 'flight or fight' reflex. This hormone encourages you to do your best during competitions. However, too much of this hormone can affect your health adversely.

How do I minimise exam stress?

  1. Be Prepared: The most important technique is to be well prepared. Start preparing well in advance. Regular self study, solving sample paper given at the end if your study materials, answering Intext Questions, mock examinations etc., are great ways to be well organised and prepared.
  2. Be healthy: Maintaining good health also helps in effectively dealing with stress. Do cut down on fatty meats, dairy products; sweets and salt. Eat more fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish as they have a calming effect on a stressed person. Eat healthy and regularly; remember that your brain will benefit from the nutrients.
  3. Be relaxed: Meditation and/or yoga are a good way of relaxing the mind. They will help to keep you feeling calm and balanced, improve your concentration levels and help you to sleep better. Meditation is ideal when you wake up in the morning or as the last thing before going to bed. Focused meditation for 15 - 20 minutes is adequate.
  4. Be fit: Regular exercise can help you to relieve stress. Activities such as moderate walking can relax your body, boost your energy, clear your mind and reduce any feelings of stress.
  5. Be informed: Don't drink too much of stimulating drinks like coffee and tea. The caffeine in these drinks will make your thinking less clear.

How can I prepare for my exams?

  1. Manage your time effectively
    • Make a things-to-do list. Also keep a note pad where you keep adding to the list as and when it occurs to your mind to keep you from the anxiety of forgetting it.
    • Prioritize it.
    • Make a time-table for a daily routine in accordance to your examination schedule.
    • Give your body minimum required rest to keep you effectively involved in the following day's activities.
    • Say 'NO' to priority stealers like talking to friends, computer-gaming, aimless surfing on TV/computers, negative thoughts (e.g. past failure, fear, unpleasant experiences), daydreaming, etc.
  1. Have an early dinner
    • It helps if you wake up fresh and early. If you feel hungry late in the night, take light snacks like banana, a glass of milk, etc. Avoid greasy, spicy or stimulating food just before going to bed, for a sound sleep.
  1. Take short breaks

    Do take short breaks right where you are when your head gets saturated with overloading of study material and has trouble focusing on the learning.

    • Get some fresh air.
    • Take a walk for a couple of minutes around the area where you are studying and stretch your limbs before you settle again to study.
    • Deep breathing can calm you in case of anxiety.
    • Neck/Shoulder rolls have great easing effect. Roll your head in circle several times or shoulders in a circular motion.
    • A quick shower can refresh you up for active study.

Manage your emotions effectively

Don't let your mood and personal problems prevent you from completing your work. Ask yourself whether it is worth worrying now. You can choose to stay calm and ignore it. If it cannot be ignored or is an emergency, take help of your parents and friends.

Don't delay the work to be done unnecessarily. Do it now!!

Delaying leads to panic situations later

How do I maintain my concentration?

If you have a problem with concentration, write a timetable. Don't try to study for longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a stretch. You can improve your timing by starting with short period of study, then adding an extra few minutes to each session. Stop work after a reasonable number of hours (five, six etc.) and then go and do something totally different in the evenings to restore your equilibrium, including taking exercise and eating proper food in good company where you have the opportunity to laugh.

Why should I do revision before examination?/strong>

Revision is not about memorising facts but trying to understand your subject well enough to demonstrate familiarity with its big themes regardless of a specific question. If you only mug up three to five answers, you will be stumped if not enough of them come in your exams. You also probably know a lot more than you imagine. It would be a good idea to do a couple of sample papers by yourself under real conditions and then direct your revision to your weaker topics

How should I revise?

  1. Make a time-table in accordance to your examination schedule.
  2. Try to arrange peaceful, quiet, and a comfortable place to revise, where you can work without being disturbed. If you study in a room where you also eat or sleep, try to keep the work area separate, so it's not always bothering you when you're not studying.
  3. Experiment with several alternative revision techniques so that revision is more fun and your motivation to study is high. These might include making notes from text books, writing quick summaries of topics (in the form of mind maps perhaps), reciting facts out aloud, learning dates, formulae or vocabulary by heart.
  4. Switching between methods helps you hold your interest and absorb information better. Mix dull subjects with more interesting ones, for the same reason. If it is difficult to get started, begin with something easy.
  5. Actively think about, sift and question what you are writing and reading, and test yourself afterwards. Writing endless notes, mindlessly, is probably a waste of time. If you come to something you don't understand, try reading about it somewhere else.
  6. Practice timed exam questions and papers. This can give you some idea of what the real exam will be like, and of how to divide your time between questions. Although exam papers are never the same, they are similar enough to be useful.
  7. As soon as you notice your mind is losing concentration, take a short break. You will then come back to your revision refreshed.

How can I Handle examination stress just before exam?

  1. Be prepared: The earlier you start revision, the less stress you will suffer later on.
  2. Don't study 24/7: Revising round the clock will make you exhausted. Relax by incorporating some activities you enjoy into your timetable. Taking time out for a bit of exercise or sport is a particularly good stress-buster.
  3. Share your stress: Restraining your emotions can increase anxiety, but talking to friends and family about how you are feeling will quickly ease the strain.
  4. Get some sleep: There is nothing worse than trying to do an exam on no sleep.

How can I cope with stress on the day of my exam?

  1. Get organised:Get up on time and make sure you have everything prepared for the exam. Check if your pencil box have the following:
    1. I-Card in original
    2. Hall Ticket - original/downloaded from the NIOS Website
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast: Taking slow-burning energy foods like porridge (daliya) or roti - sabzi/ curd in the morning. This will keep you feeling relaxed and alert throughout the day.
  3. Take a deep breath: Simple breathing exercises can stop panic. Take a minute to inhale slowly through the nose and then exhale gently through your mouth. Repeat three times and you'll feel instantly calmer.
  4. Read the questions: When you open your exam paper read the questions carefully before you frantically start writing down everything you know about the subject.

What will I do if my mind goes blank just before exams?

If your mind goes blank, don't panic! Panicking will just make it harder to recall information. Instead, focus on slow, deep breathing for about one minute. If you still can't remember the information then move on to another question and return to this question later.

How can I calm myself down?

Firstly, stop thinking of the exams as the day of your execution. See them instead as part of a chain of events that includes the reasonably happy life you are enjoying now and the very happy life you will have after they are finished.

Secondly, practice a 60-second relaxation exercise to use on the day of your exam. Close your eyes drop your shoulders and listen to the sound of your own breathing. Do nothing for one full minute but count your breaths in and out, screening off the noise around you and breathing slowly into your belly. Say to yourself '1001, 1002, 1003' (to count the in-breaths) and '1004, 1005, 1006' (for the out). Then pause for '1007' before you start to in-breathe again. Regularising your breathing stops you from dumping Co2 from your system, which otherwise triggers panic in the brain.

How can my family and friends help me in minimising exam stress?

You need to know that you have the support of your family and friends. It is important that they should be sensitive to the extra strain you may be under, and allow you the space and time to study. Regular meals, appropriate opportunities for relaxation, and emotional support are all going to help. So is offering plenty of positive feedback, which can demonstrate your confidence in their abilities. Friends and family should keep distractions to a minimum and do as much as possible to ease any additional pressures. They should encourage you to seek appropriate help.

But, how would they know that you want to be helped? Talk to your family and friends on this issue, clearly outlining as to what kind of support you are looking for.

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