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How to beat exam stress and anxiety

The following article is written by Jess Holsman, Deakin psychology graduate and founder of YouTube’s ‘Study With Jess’, where she gives advice to thousands of students around the world on effective study.

Come exam time, having higher than usual stress levels seems to be the new norm amongst students. In fact, many students admit to feeling anxious and overwhelmed as they feel the pressure to succeed and meet their own personal expectations. This is on top of the stress of 2020 and how the school year has changed to accommodate schools, particularly in Victoria, going in and out of lockdown.

The following five tips can help you get through your exams by helping put a stop to those pesky butterflies and banishing those stomping elephants from the pit of your stomach!

1. Treat yourself

While it can be easy to cast all other responsibilities and your social life aside when your exams are around the corner, it’s important that you still make time for them. As Victoria comes out of lockdown, give yourself time to see your friends. Attending to other areas of your life will allow you to be your best, energised and most happy self, so that you can continue to focus on your studies, revise for your exams, and overall, excel in your final results. Make sure to set aside some personal time to do something for yourself, such as going for a walk, eating dinner with your family, or taking a relaxing bath. However you like to treat yourself for all of your hard work, make sure to find some balance and don’t wait until your exams are over to do it.

2. Think positive

Often, it is the pressure we place on ourselves to get a certain grade that can contribute to our levels of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, negative thought patterns often contribute to increased self doubt. While completing an exam can seem daunting, as long as you have studied effectively, there shouldn’t be anything new or too difficult for you to get caught up over. Use your exam as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. Show your teachers and prove to yourself just how much you have learned. Remain confident in your abilities to tackle this next exam and remember that you have survived exams before, so there is no reason you won’t get through this one, too.

3. Get outdoors

One of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety is exercise. Getting outdoors for even 15 minutes a day brings numerous health benefits. Go for a walk in your local park, get out your skipping rope, or go for a short bike ride around your neighborhood. All of these are going to get your heart rate up, leaving you feeling more alert, energised and, most importantly, less stressed! This is because when you exercise, your body releases endorphins that help to combat feelings of stress and also help to promote a good night’s sleep – something you definitely can’t do without when you have to study for your upcoming exams!

4. Breathe

Deep breathing is a simple and extremely effective way to help you feel calm and manage stress and anxiety. Try taking a few deep breaths whenever you begin to notice your stress levels rising, such as while you are studying or as you wait to enter the exam venue. To slow down your breathing, inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of six. When you lengthen your exhalations to be longer than your inhalations, your body begins to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will calm you down. Also, focusing on something as simple as breathing helps to quieten those racing thoughts by acting as a temporary and soothing distraction.

5. Talk it out

While all of these strategies can collectively help you to manage stress and anxiety during exam time, for some, feeling stressed or anxious can be an ongoing challenge. Consider talking to someone such as a family member, friend or counsellor about how you are feeling and try to come up with some additional strategies to reduce stress. Seeking support can remind you that you are not alone and often, simply talking about your situation can already begin to take some of the pressure off.

Happy studying!

xo, Study With Jess

Check out some more great tips from Study With Jess in the video below.

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