Episode 84: You aren’t going to believe how simple it can be to decrease stress during exam week. Seriously, you’re not going to want to hear this.

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Be Prepared For Tests

Despite all you may have heard about how to decrease stress during exam weeks, I have a theory. See, I believe that if you’re actually prepared to the level that you need to be – and you know it – then your stress relief will be automatic. In fact, I used to be able to guess my score and be accurate within 2% most of the time.

No surprises. Much lower stress – that is the Mastermind Way.

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Stressed About Exam Stress? How To Find Your Inner Calm At A Testing Time

Examinations can be, if you’ll pardon the pun, a very testing time. Months, or even years of preparation, study and revision all boil down to this moment – time to show the examiners the extent of your knowledge in a limited amount of time. There is often a lot riding on a successful outcome – with places at top medical schools, universities or even internships at stake.

So how can you get a handle on your stress levels and so enable yourself to perform at your very best? First of all, you need to understand what it is you’re dealing with.

What is stress, and how can I recognize the symptoms?

Stress is a perfectly natural response to pressure. The body senses the pressure as a physical threat and releases chemicals into the bloodstream that can make you feel jumpy or on edge. Your muscles tense in readiness for a ‘fight or flight’ reaction, while your mouth becomes dry and your breath quickens.

Not very nice. Plus, other signs, such as headaches, sick feelings, lack of sleep, unexplained aches, inability to concentrate and bad temper, all add to the general discomfort and inconvenience of stress. It can lead to panic, producing alarming symptoms, such as chest pains, breathlessness, dizziness or fainting if it is not identified and managed at as early a stage as possible.

What are other common triggers of stress?

Obviously, the very fact that you are preparing for an important exam will be enough to start your stress levels rising. However, other factors can play a major role. Addictions, such as alcohol or drugs can prove a major distraction, which also produce yet more physical symptoms that your body will need to deal with. Cutting back, or seeking professional help to deal with such an addiction is a crucial step to take if you want to do well in your exam.

Family disputes can be another area for concern – here a quiet word or two might be needed to make your loved ones aware of the pressures your exams are putting you under to see if they can find better ways to support you, or even simply back off from you for the revision and examination period. Always make the educational institute aware of any serious problems that might impede your studies; they are there to help you do the best you can and can often be flexible in their approach.

Finally, money worries affect us all – not least when we are struggling students. The current rise of debt counseling services is no coincidence in this age of heightened stress and financial instability. Yet there are still several solutions out there. Student loans still exist, and there are a fair few credit cards with cashback available that can help you plan your repayments while gaining access to immediate cash for short-term purchases. See what your bank can offer.

How can I deal with my stress and reduce its impact on my studies?

Put simply, you need to learn how to relax. Your doctor or health worker should be able to give you some breathing techniques and simple relaxation routines to try. Physical exercise can help lower stress, as well as provide a welcome break from your studies. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Don’t forget that there are plenty of alternative therapies, counsellors and support groups out there too – see which approach(es) suit you best.

Set yourself realistic goals and expectations. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Speak to someone who knows you and your work well, not to mention your academic achievements and standards. Ask them if they think you are on the right track and listen to their feedback.

In terms of minimizing stress around the actual exams, make sure you are well prepared and know exactly what is expected of you in advance. It sounds obvious, but make sure you know which exam you are preparing for, where and when it is and what you will need to take into the room with you. Have something to eat beforehand, use the bathroom and make sure you arrive at the venue in good time.

How can I help someone who is stressed by a forthcoming exam?

Your role as a friend, family member or supporter of an exam candidate is both crucial and complex. You will need to be encouraging, patient, thick-skinned, tactful, nagging, loving, reassuring, serious, calming… you get the picture. Keep distractions to a minimum and try not to resent the restrictions an impending exam is placing on your liberty and leisure. It won’t be forever.

Help the person revise, send them off on exam day with a hug and be there for them when the results come in – whether it is to celebrate or commiserate. Above all, make sure the person knows they are worth more than the result of a single exam. This is just one tiny aspect of what makes them special and unique. Don’t let worry or stress blow that out of all proportion. For either of you.

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