Unfortunately, tests and exams are a part of life. Whether it’s at school or university, taking a test for your learners license or as part of a job application, at some stage we all have to write tests. For some people, tests and exams are not that worrying, but for most of us, exams are stressful.
Stress isn’t all bad. It can give you a rush of adrenaline which motivates you to focus and study hard. But it’s a fine line – too much stress does the opposite and causes you to get anxious and tense, and often you start panicking and struggle to concentrate. Stress can affect the quality of your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to handle everyday tasks. If you go through periods of prolonged and extreme stress, this can also lead to more serious mental health problems, like depression or anxiety.
Although you can’t avoid the tests and exams that cause you to feel stress, there are a number of things you can do to help yourself remain calm and to handle those negative feelings in a healthy way.
Tips for dealing with exam stress:
Give yourself a break. Your brain can only concentrate and absorb information for so long before it needs a rest. You’re much more likely to remember what you’re studying if you take plenty of breaks, even if it’s just making a cup of tea or going outside for a few minutes.
Healthy diet. Try not to eat too much junk food and don’t drink alcohol. A healthy body and mind are better able to deal with the demands of stress and exams.
Get enough sleep. Take time to relax before going to bed, that way it will be easier for you to fall asleep, and you will be less likely to lie awake worrying about all the work you have to do. Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Staying awake all night to study will leave you feeling tired and anxious, and make it difficult to concentrate the next day.
Keep yourself busy. When you’re not studying, do things you enjoy. Read a book, listen to some music, play sports or spend time with friends. If you keep yourself busy while you aren’t studying you will be less likely to constantly think and worry about your exams.
Talk to someone. It’s tempting to bottle up your negative feelings when you are feeling stressed or anxious about something. You might feel like nobody else is feeling this way, or that people won’t understand your concerns. But bottling up stress and trying to deal with it on your own can often make the stress worse. So it can really help to talk to someone you trust. Talk to your parents, a teacher, a close friend or try calling a helpline to speak to a counsellor. You never have to try and handle difficult situations on your own.
Important reminder: failing isn’t the end of the world. It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, and your parents or teachers may be upset. But at the end of the day, it’s only an exam. You can always re-take the exam or test. Your wellbeing comes before anything else.