Exams can be very stressful. How can we manage this stress?

1. Listen to your stress 

Do you dismiss or ignore your stress and try and study “over” it? Feeling stressed impacts our ability to learn and take in information. Our stress is there to tell us something, when we listen to our feelings they settle down, giving the learning part of the brain an opportunity to focus. Often stress is a signal to get clarity, it can come from a sense of being out of control. Listening to the stress and satisfying it’s need by doing some planning or just getting clarity of what you need to do and how can already help.

2. Plan

Sometimes when we are stressed we rush into just studying and studying or we procrastinate because we feel overwhelmed. Neither of these options are effective. When we just study our brains don’t have clarity of when we are going to have a break and this can affect the quality of our studying or our receptiveness. When we procrastinate we just load ourselves with more pressure and stress. The answer is to plan. Spending a half an hour to plan can make a huge difference. It gives us a structure/framework to work in which can settle the anxiety because it breaks up the work or action steps into smaller pieces, thereby focusing on smaller pieces at a time. It gives us clarity on what we need to cover and when we should be finished. It also gives us a way to measure ourselves and to learn how long it takes us to study different sections. The idea is to gain an understanding on how we study so that our planning gets better and better leaving us feeling in control. So don’t expect to get your plan perfect at first! Plan, measure and adjust – it is a learning process that develops your effectiveness.

3. Implement an effective learning strategy all year round

Developing the discipline to study consistently all year prevents stress at exam time. Even spending half an hour every day just going over the work learnt that day can make a huge difference. MAKING the time for this is the biggest gift you can give yourself. It is very easy to find reasons not to but we have to keep reminding ourselves of the pain of the stress when we don’t. Let that drive and develop your discipline to do it

4. Set effective boundaries

– when we have a clear plan we are able to say no to other commitments more easily from family or friends. How often do these engagements or commitments impact your studying? It can even impact your effectiveness or concentration if they happen before your study session.  Learning to say no and planning studying first can improve effectiveness and reduces stress.

5. Managing your expectations

What results are you expecting to get? We can’t know what mark we are going to get, so if our focus remains on that, we will feel stressed and out of control. Sometimes unreasonable papers are set and no matter how hard we study we won’t necessarily do as well as we would like. Goals are important but changing the way we measure ourselves reduces the stress. Deciding what we feel is enough in terms of how much we have studied is the best way to measure and give yourself the time to do so. Learning to measure ourselves based on our effort and not on the outside result is a very good life strategy. We don’t always have control of what happens on the outside, but if we measure ourselves by our efforts we learn to keep adjusting our efforts to get what we want and then circumstances do not dictate our happiness

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