I often find myself wanting to give advice on things that affect me personally. However, at the same time, I am also aware of how painfully hypocritical it would be to pretend that I actually always take my own advice on board. This is something that I thought was particularly apt when talking about how to cope with exam stress.
People who are close to me would most likely characterise me as a ‘worrier’, and this unwanted alter ego emerges most prominently during exam time. I am aware of the steps that I should take in order to reduce exam stress, however to claim that I actually follow these steps and remain completely calm and collected during exam season would simply be a lie. So, instead I have decided to reflect upon my own bad habits in this post, and explain how you could deal with them better than I do. A guide on ‘how not to be like me’, if you will.
Take a break
One of the main things I am guilty of during exam season is not giving myself a break. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I am chained to my desk all day and night, but it means that I don’t split up my revision time throughout the day. I have a terrible tendency to tell myself that am not deserved of a break if I haven’t written / revised a certain amount. So instead, I’ll sit fidgeting in front of my laptop screen for hours, gaining very little other than square eyes and a rumbling stomach. Instead of following my unproductive technique, ensure you take regular breaks throughout the day in order to split up your revision. It’s important to realise that breaks are not just rewards, they are essential for keeping you focused- so for the sake of your sanity, make sure you take a few.
During exam season, I usually find that my favourite part of the day is the blissful moment when you first wake up…before quickly being reminded of your ever-increasing pile of essays and revision. Something I struggle with is switching off this mindset of constant stress, often feeling as if my workload is looming over me throughout the entire day. However, what I’ve learnt from this is that thinking about work 24/7 is not going to solve anything, nor is it going to get things done any faster. If anything, it leaves you feeling more distracted when you’re trying to work. Instead, try to think of work as something you are going to get up and do, rather than something that is following you around. By leaving your revision at the desk top you’ll be able to sleep much easier, which brings me on to my next point…
Get some sleep
I am definitely someone that plans on going to bed at a certain time, but instead ends up spending hour upon hour scrolling on my phone or watching Netflix. During the holidays when you have no uni or school to go to, it is easy to fall into the trap of late nights, and even later mornings. This is something that I often do regardless of the stress it causes me. Having a lay in is great, and I don’t think you need to wake up at 6am every day in order to be productive. However if it gets to the point where you’re missing half the day because you were sat up in the small hours watching youtube videos of a dog riding on a skateboard, its probably time to rethink your sleeping pattern. Going to bed at a reasonable time means you will actually be able to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, giving yourself more time to get through your to do list!
Don’t get too comfortable
Against my better judgement, I often spend much of my time revising and working whilst sat in bed. Although the comfort of this cannot be denied, it often results in impromptu naps and a growing pile of reading. So, recently I have forced myself to try working at a desk instead. It may be less comfortable, but it is undoubtedly a more effective work space. If you have the will power to stay awake whilst working in bed then I truly admire you, however if you’re anything like me, I’d advise against it.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Without a doubt, I am my toughest critic. This can be very stressful during exam season as I will spend far too much time reflecting on all the things I should have gotten done that day and beating myself up about it. It can be difficult not to feel guilty if you don’t complete your to do list, however dwelling on those unfinished tasks is not going to help anything. Try to spend some time focusing on what you have done, rather than worrying about what you haven’t. This way you will feel much more positive about your workload, instead of being in a constant state of worry.
So there you have some tips on how to avoid my bad habits during exam season. Obviously I understand that it’s not always as simple as switching off your mind and not worrying about those dreaded exam papers, but if you can try and follow at least a couple of these steps then I guarantee it will help to make the whole period that little bit less stressful!