Tuesday 21 April 2015

10 Stress-Busting Tips for the exam period

#eurovision #eurevision

- Becky McCerery

Spring is a daunting time for any student. The sun may be shining and the birds may be singing but stress can turn all of that loveliness into a perpetual shade of grey. Exams are coming. Here are my top 10 stress busting tips to help you ACE those exams!

1. Stick to a revision timetable
Making a revision timetable is priceless, and it could possibly be one of the best things you ever do in exam season. During times of stress our brains have a really tough time remembering things such as deadlines and mental revision schedules so it’s much better to get it down on paper (or Word doc), print it out and take each day as it comes. A revision timetable will take the weight off of your short term memory, and you can focus a good hour on making sure you’re working longer on subjects you find more difficult and organise yourself around assignments and exams. 

2. Get outside
It really is a lovely time of year and no one wants to be bogged down revising ALL day, so make sure you allot some time to get outdoors and get some fresh air. Taking time away from all of that work for a few minutes to a few hours can really do you the world of good. It’ll help you focus your mind and get a bit of clarity. 

3. Take time out with friends or family
Just because you have deadlines doesn't mean you can’t have a life! As well as assigning time to get outside make sure you have social time too. I'm the first to hold my hands up to being guilty of letting my relationships slip during stressful times, but with good time management there’s no reason why you can’t have the best of both worlds. 

4. Know what is expected of you
One of the biggest sources of exam season stress is not knowing what is expected of you. You’re not quite sure on how to answer those exam questions the way the examiner wants or maybe how to layout your final presentation, poster or essay. The best thing to do is ASK. It’s perfectly okay to ask for help, and at the end of the day this is your degree and your grades so you’re going to want the best for you! Your lecturers should be happy to help where they can, and asking for clarification will only show you’re an enthusiastic and passionate student.

5. Get some exercise
Exercise is one of the best stress busting activities and many people swear by it. Exercise and keeping fit is probably way at the bottom of your to-do list but combining it with getting outdoors or socialising will help keep your time management on point too. Taking part in a sport society can be a good place to start, you could also try something like climbing and bouldering with a friend to stress bust and socialise or even try a completely new sport like surfing or snowboarding (my personal favourites).

6. Cut down on the caffeine
This may seem counterproductive, and I know energy drinks have a cult following among students but replacing that energy drink with a big bottle of water will give you more; sustainable energy, hydration and you’ll avoid the dreaded caffeine and sugar crashes. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep so as to not need those dreaded energy drinks. 

7. Learn to say no to nights out
We all have that one friend who will not be put off from a night out by ANYTHING - “exam tomorrow? Let’s party!” Going out once in a while during exam season is fine, you’re letting off steam and it can be part of your social time but if you have a deadline or exam soon and you think getting lots of rest leading up to that is the best thing to do (it is), then just say no and ask to take a rain check. 

Oh my, I cannot express enough how important sleep is! If you want your memory working at its peak performance or to be on top of your game for essays and presentations, then you should usually be aiming for around the 8 hour sleep mark. Much less than that and your brain is going to take a serious nose dive into the lazy and delirious phase and your stress levels will skyrocket! Everyone knows sleep is good for you but not a lot of students practice it. I encourage you to try a new sleep schedule that will get you 8 hours of sleep a night and log how you feel - you’ll see a huge difference! More sleep will also mean less need for caffeine (see point 6).

9. Don’t overdo it
Set an alarm or timer for fifty minutes and within that fifty minutes focus solely on the work at hand. Once the minutes are up, take ten minutes away from work and relax. This will keep you focussed on the task at hand, and knowing you only have to work for fifty minutes will be a lot less daunting. The 50:10 rule is practiced a lot in business and has a cult following in professionals and students. This rule can be difficult to jump straight into so I would advise editing the 50:10 rule to suit your current focus levels and build yourself up over time, just make sure during your allotted minutes you don’t start checking your phone or social media or you won’t see the same results.

10. Know your deadlines
Everything may seem like it’s due all at once but by keeping a diary and updated calendar you can keep track of all the looming deadlines. Work your revision schedule around all of your due dates and if you’re unsure of anything drop your lecturers an email to check. Try and get any assignments in early so you can focus the rest of your time on exam revision, making sure your revision timetable reflects the dates of each exam.

For more tips about managing exam stress, check out the Student Minds Guide to Exam Stress, which has lots of tips and links to all the best external resources!

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