Tips on Dealing with Exam Anxiety

Written by: Spriha Mishra

It’s that time of the semester again – where cortisol levels rise and stomach aches, rapid breathing, insomnia, sweep by for a couple of weeks.

Of course, feelings of anxiousness before examinations is not limited to finals week; it can arise before any quiz or assessment to hinder both students’ performance and well-being.

While examination anxiety is so ubiquitous, how do we go about talking about it? It’s a known fact that healthy amount of stress can lead to better performance. It activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system that releases adrenaline, which can stimulate you to keep pushing on and focus on your work. However, when we face an abnormal level of stress, it can be detrimental to our performance and well-being.

It all boils down to the question: how do we tackle examination anxiety or stress in a healthy manner?

Some of us resort to overworking ourselves, while others become lax and procrastinate to avoid dealing with the issue properly. At the end of the day, these approaches are dangerous. The former is highly unsustainable and can easily lead to burnout, while the latter can cause an eventual dip in performance and the subsequent guilt creates a vicious cycle of procrastination and guilt.

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We need to develop healthy patterns of studying and dealing with anxiety. These two go hand-in-hand. For example, think about the last time you wrote a test you barely studied for. Chances are you were extremely nervous throughout. One of the best ways to decrease anxiety before examinations is to study enough to be comfortable with the material. But this is a very basic first step, and most of us struggle with anxiety regardless of the amount of information we have crammed to our brains.

Fortunately, most of the methods which work for regular anxiety also aids in subduing examination anxiety. Deep breathing, yoga, and physical exercises have all been proven to be beneficial in controlling anxiety. One should also try to weed out distractions such as social media, and stay away from harmful coping mechanisms like smoking or drinking. You should also ensure that you’re eating well instead of devouring instant noodles in the wee hours of the night, and make meal times a time for relaxation. Engaging in exercise, taking sufficient breaks from study and getting enough sleep would also help to ensure that your stress levels are kept under control.

Right before an examination, you can practice breathing exercises – such as breathing deeply by drawing your breath down into the abdomen as shallow breathing which is linked to stress and panicking – or repeat affirmations such as “I will do well” or “I am adequately prepared” for a sense of mindfulness.

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Students must also realise that examinations only hold so much weight. As cliché as it sounds, one exam cannot change the course of your life. After all, the purpose of education is to learn, not to excel in tests, which hardly proves one’s capabilities in the working world.

If you can enjoy the process of learning without focusing on the outcomes, not only will you be calmer, you will also start to see a change in your worldview, and hopefully become a seeker of knowledge and wisdom.

NTUSU would like to wish everyone all the best for the upcoming examinations!

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