As high school, college and university students get into the thick of exam season, stress can build up before they even have a chance to realize it. And besides having ill effects on health, this can also result in poorer grades — leading to even more stress.
Patty Hambler and Kari Marken, student service professionals at UBC in Vancouver, emphasize a holistic approach to studying for exams; that is, the necessity of paying attention to your body, as well as your mind, in order to achieve your best results.
"It is so important to build resilience because you’re rarely writing just one exam; it’s an exam season. If you don’t do as well as you hoped on an exam, it can impact your ability to properly prepare for your next exams," says Hambler. "When you have these fixed [negative] statements going through your head, it can be more challenging to pick yourself up and go on to the next thing."
Various schools have gotten into the practice of "de-stress fests," trying to help students keep calm before tests, including Dalhousie University's puppy room, McGill University's drum circle, and University of Calgary's meditation classes.
Hambler and Marken have some specific suggestions as to how to ready yourself for exams — take a look at the list below, and let us know if you've found anything that works to help reduce stress for you.
"Sleep is the number one thing your brain needs to process what it is learning," says Patty Hambler, student service professionals at UBC in Vancouver. "Sleep is connected to your ability to recall information and do higher-level thinking and problem solving. It is just as important to prepare your body for recalling information during exams as it is to know the course information."
Make Breaks Part Of Studying
"Instead of hitting the books right away, take a break and re-charge your mind with feel-good endorphins," says Kari Marken, also at UBC. "Go for a run, or call a friend and tell them you are upset, or walk down to the water and re-connect with nature and breath. Preparing your body and mind for the next wave of intense academic pressure might just result in a better grade."
Stage Your Exam
Psych students know that environment can affect performance, so why not put that knowledge to the test? "If you are writing in a big gymnasium, sitting in a hard chair and can’t leave the room to go to the washroom, then study in those conditions," says Marken. "This will help desensitize you to the conditions of the exam and there is a smaller chance that your environment will trigger anxiety."
This doesn't mean going into a dark room and staying silent for hours on end. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly, taking five deep breaths, using that time to still your mind and relax your body as best you can, and then returning to the task at hand.
Libraries can be dry places, and getting dehydrated can quickly lead to tiredness. Get used to drinking water (yes, those eight cups a day), and your body will be used to it come study time.
Get Up Once An Hour
Staying hunched over a desk for hours on end won't do your body, or your mind, any favours. Stand up and stretch, or walk around, for five minutes once an hour — and yes, set an alarm to remind yourself to do so.