Friday 31 May 2024

Balancing Exams and Well-being: My Journey to Success

Zainab shares her journey to managing academic stress through effective time management, active learning, self-care and seeking support when needed.

- Zainab

University exams and assignments often felt overwhelming, turning what should have been a learning experience into a major source of stress for me. I noticed that stress showed up as anxiety, trouble concentrating, and even physical symptoms like headaches and insomnia. Recognising these signs early was key to managing them effectively and I found that good time management really helped with academic stress.  

Creating detailed schedules, breaking tasks into smaller chunks, prioritising urgent assignments and setting realistic goals all helped me avoid last-minute cramming and ensured I had enough time for more challenging subjects. It wasn’t just about how many hours I studied, but how effectively I used those hours. Active learning methods like summarising information in my own words, teaching it to someone else or applying concepts to real-world scenarios were incredibly helpful. Joining study groups with my peers was also beneficial; we reviewed content, discussed complex topics and shared different perspectives. This also helped me become more outgoing and confident in speaking to new people, which had always been a struggle for me.  

Waiting for results was another big source of stress for me. I was always terrified the outcome would be disappointing. When I did well, I made sure to celebrate my achievements and acknowledge the hard work I had put in. If the results weren’t what I had hoped for, I tried not to dwell on the negativity. Instead, I used them as a learning experience, identifying areas for improvement and seeking feedback. I reminded myself that one set of results didn’t define my overall ability or future potential. Keeping a balanced view, I remembered that academic results were just one part of my life, and I had strengths and achievements outside the academic sphere as well.  

Self-care became a crucial part of my routine during periods of academic pressure. Regular exercise, whether it was a brisk walk in the park near my house, heading off to the gym, or my personal favourite—a movie marathon, especially when it was cold and rainy outside—was a great stress reliever for me. I tried to nourish my body with a balanced diet, avoiding too much caffeine and sugar, which was hard for me given how much I loved sweets. I found that too much sugar and caffeine could increase anxiety and disrupt my sleep. Ensuring I got 7-9 hours of sleep each night became a priority, as good sleep improved memory, concentration, and overall thinking, which were essential for effective studying and exam performance. 

Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques, like meditation or spending time reading the books piled up in my never-ending TBR, significantly reduced my stress levels. Staying connected with loved ones and sharing my concerns with them was also important for my well-being. I found that just talking about what I was going through could alleviate stress.  

When stress became overwhelming, seeking professional help was vital. My university offered counselling services, and speaking with the wellbeing and support team provided me with strategies to manage stress and maintain mental well-being. While exams and assignments are integral parts of the academic journey, they shouldn’t come at the expense of health and happiness. 

By implementing effective time management, engaging in smart study practices, handling results with a balanced perspective, and prioritising self-care, I navigated these pressures successfully. I learned that maintaining a healthy balance was key to both academic success and personal fulfilment.

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I'm Zainab, a university student who has struggled with the overwhelming stress of exams and assignments. I'm sharing my story to help others who might be facing similar challenges. By sharing the strategies that worked for me, I hope to offer support and practical advice for managing academic pressure and maintaining well-being.

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