Exam Stress: 8 Tips to Cope With Anxiety from an Actual Student
The 2022/2023 academic year is almost here, and you may be feeling anxious and stressed about exams and assignments already.
As a graduate, I’m here to offer you some tips on how to deal with exam stress at university, after all, it’s perfectly normal for your mental health to take a slight hit during busy periods.
Considering I’ve been in your shoes during my undergraduate degree, I’m sure you’ll benefit from this guide!
Carry on reading to find out the 8 tips and tricks an actual student swears by…
1. Work On Feelings Of Imposter Syndrome
Firstly, let’s talk a little bit about Imposter syndrome which is essentially the worry that you’re going to fail, and that whatever you do, is never going to be good enough.
We’re all guilty of self-doubt and comparing ourselves to other people, especially during university as we’re surrounded by so many people within lectures and seminars who we think are ‘better’ or ‘smarter’ than us.
If you’re feeling like an ‘imposter’ you might tell yourself that the only reason you did on a previous exam or assignment was due to luck, when in matter of fact, it’s because you worked hard and did great.
You need to learn to deal with these anxious feelings that come with imposter syndrome as they contribute to stress regarding exams and assignments.
A few things you can do to work on this is by acknowledging your own strengths, not seeing failure as the worst outcome and instead using it to strive to do better, being open about your feelings with others and refusing to compare your academic performance to anyone else’s.
2. Put Yourself First
If I can offer any advice for current students at university dealing with exam stress or any sort of anxious feelings regarding academia, it’s to put yourself before your education.
Seriously, make sure you focus on your mental and physical wellbeing and don’t get yourself lost in the process.
Exams and assignment deadlines are difficult periods, and they can make us feel really worried leading to all-nighters in the library, forgetting to clean up and eating all the wrong things, or even forgetting to make meals all together.
Instead, if you take time to practice self-care, focus on a good sleeping pattern, have a good diet, and take regular breaks, then you’ll find studying becomes a lot easier.
You should also spend some time cleaning your room if you’re able to, or wherever you study. I found that if I’d made my room feel all nice and cosy, I’d be more inclined to smash out work, a healthy space = a healthy mind!
3. Cut Out Unhealthy Habits
Similarly, to what I’ve just mentioned, you should cut out any unhealthy habits during exam season to help you deal with the feelings of stress.
Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine is going to initially make you feel more energetic and positive, but in the long run you’re just going to crash. The same goes for food too, try to cut out unhealthy habits of ordering too many takeaways or not eating enough.
The key is to get a good night’s sleep of 8 hours if you’re able to, have a healthy diet and drink lots of water.
If you are going to drink alcohol then do it in moderation, you might think you can smash out uni work and revision when you’re hungover, but the day will come along, and you’ll realise you can’t possibly get anything done – It’s a depressant after all.
Save going out and doing things you enjoy till after you’ve done your exams or submitted your assignments, then it will be a celebration and something to motivate you to do well – treat yourself!
4. Take Time To Breathe
During stressful times at uni, you need to set aside some time to just sit and focus on your breathing and calm down your mind and body.
If you’re struggling with a certain task or exam question, then sit and take a minute to relax and take a deep breath, when you’ve done that, you’ll be able to come to a rational solution and be able to put things into perspective.
Try your best not to overthink and get yourself all worked up, just because something isn’t clear straight away, doesn’t mean it won’t be eventually.
You can even spend some time every day or every few days practicing mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises on Youtube or TikTok are great help. I also found that listening to music helped decrease my stress levels, which might be beneficial for you to try out.
5. Have Breaks From Your Phone
I can’t stress this enough, don’t spend too much time on your phone or social media during exam season or when you have assignment submissions coming up.
Not only do you need to concentrate on the task at hand rather than being unproductive checking notifications or scrolling aimlessly, but it can also make you feel down by checking what other people are up to and lead to FOMO.
Your body can also release a stress trigger just from checking your phone and it can impact your sleeping pattern.
So, try to cut down your screen time when you need to study or get your head down for uni work!
6. Manage Your Time Well
We all know that time-management is SO important for your university workload.
Personally, I’d suggest writing town a weekly planner of when you’re going to spend time studying and on which days.
Physically jotting down when you’re going to work or what tasks you’re going to do will remind you and keep you motivated.
I used to book my library sessions at uni in advance too so I couldn’t back out and then I could work around my lecture and seminars too.
Managing your time means not cramming things in last minute, whilst I’ve been guilty of it in the past (who hasn’t) it’s not good to procrastinate and leave yourself with loads to do a few days before a deadline, or an exam.
Instead, break your studying into pieces within your schedule such as, if you have a long essay to get done, do a certain word count each day over a few weeks, rather than trying to do it all within an impossible time frame.
You should create a study/life balance that works for you, too much of either one can have a negative impact. So, make sure you ensure that you’ve included time to socialise and time to unwind and chill, to do things YOU enjoy doing.
7. Speak To Your Support Network
Okay, this is one of my most important tips for coping with anxiety and stress revolving exams and deadlines – speak to your friends and family!
Don’t isolate yourself if you feel that things are getting too much, they’re your support network who can offer you great advice and they know you better than anyone, especially your parents.
If you have a good relationship with the people you live with whether it’s in your student flat or house-share, speak up to them about your stresses, sometimes just getting it off your chest can do the world of good.
You’ll feel better after talking about any issues you’re facing, so don’t just bottle it up and force yourself to get on with it.
Your mates are probably feeling a similar way too if they’re at uni, so you can support each other.
8. Reach Out For Help
My last tip for you guys is to reach out for help if you feel anxious or feel overwhelmed.
Whilst little stress is normal and can actually motivate us to push ourselves, there’s a fine line between feeling a bit stressed to being mentally and physically drained from the pressures of uni and exam time.
There’s help to be found at university, whether it’s letting your tutors know that you’re struggling with a specific task or module or speaking to someone on campus about your wellbeing or academic difficulties.
Don’t sit back and struggle, open up and get support from professionals.
If you don’t feel like speaking to them, then you could even talk to people on your course about your anxieties, they will most likely be fine with offering you some help with a specific assignment, aspect of an exam, or project.
Chances are, you’ll help someone out at another stage with something you understand, and they don’t. So, don’t worry about looking ‘stupid’ or ‘being a pain’.
To conclude this blog, I hope I’ve managed to give you some helpful tips on how to cope with anxiety regarding exam stress or any other university worries.
Remember, you’ve gotten this far with your education so you must be doing something right – believe in yourself!
Student Minds have a whole section on exam stress for young people on their website, it’s worth having a read of these resources.