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Dealing with exam stress

Exams, like so many other things, are an unavoidable feature of life. Inevitably, some people fare better than others. Some people enjoy the ordeal, viewing exams as a challenge to overcome. But for the vast majority of us, exams are a terrifying weight on our minds that lead to sleepless nights, mental fatigue, and tension. This is especially true in the Indian education system, in which an exacting curriculum and high societal expectations leave many students riddled with anxiety. Perhaps the worst part of the experience is waiting for the results – truly a nerve-wracking experience.

As we enter March and despite the coronavirus scare, with exam season going on, students around the country have their noses to the grindstone. This period can be especially grueling, and the sustained focus demanded of them leaves many feeling overwhelmed. Much of this tension arises from the multiple ‘what if’ scenarios running through their minds. “What if I don’t do well?”, “What if I’m asked something I haven’t studied”, and worst of all, the dreaded “What if I fail?” And although all of these outcomes are a possibility, our mind has a tendency to assume the worst, and fixate on it to the exclusion of all else. This tendency is called ‘catastrophising’, and is an extremely widespread occurrence. However, if the perceived or actual demands on a student exceed their capability to handle, the stress placed on them can severely impact their health and well-being – both mentally and physically. Although the effects of long-term stress on the mind and body vary for each individual, common features include muscle tension, palpitations, pain, fatigue, low mood, attentional difficulties, and poor concentration and decision-making.

In the run-up to results day, learning how to manage stress is an invaluable tool for parents and students alike. Here are a few steps to help navigate through this tricky period:

Don’t be isolated: Stress is a natural occurrence, one that everyone faces and overcomes in their own different ways. But if the stress ever gets to a point where it threatens to overwhelm you, and negatively impacts your day-to-day life, don’t keep it to yourself. Open up to someone you trust and feel comfortable confiding in – whether it be your parents, friends, or colleagues.

Discover a hobby: Exams place a great deal of strain on our mental faculties. Preparing for your exams also demands strict study schedules and constant revision, all of which leave little time for ourselves. That is why setting aside some time for relaxation and enjoyment, especially through a hobby, is vital.

The benefit of napping: Restful sleep is an essential component of a balanced schedule, as it gives your body and mind the time they need to rest and relax. During these times, it’s vital that you get a minimum of eight hours of sleep daily.

Writing therapy: Expressing your feelings is the fastest way to reach acceptance and self-realisation. For those of us who don’t feel comfortable in confiding in other people, expressive writing is the ideal option. Also known as journaling, this method can help ease anxiety, soothe frazzled nerves, and reduce the tendency to brood over negative experiences. Through a series of guided writing exercises, participants learn to free their minds from worry and improve their decision making ability. The act of thinking about an experience, and subsequently exploring the emotions that arise from it, is an essential part of healing. In this way, writing helps you to organise thoughts and give meaning to a stressful experience. 

(HT Media)

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