Exam Stress Help

What is Exam Stress

Exam stress is a form of performance anxiety felt in anticipation of an upcoming exam. The closer the exam, the worse the stress. Exam stress is characterized by restless sleep, worry, muscle tension, headaches, stomach butterflies, irritability, dysphoria, and general inability to just chill.

exam stress

The problem with exam stress, is that feeling jitters before your exam can cause you to perform well below what you are capable of in a relaxed state of mind.

What Causes Exam Stress

The main cause of exam stress is feelings of inadequacy. The main tool your mind uses to create this nonsense is negative self-talk, "OMG this is sooooo hard I'm so going to fail" and catastrophic visual projection "damn if I can't make it through Physics I can see myself living out of my car and shining shoes forever". Sometimes there are good reasons to be fearful of an exam based on prior poor performance, and if this is the case you need to step up your study and not waste time placing bets on your next exam performance. But for most people they think themselves into exam stress needlessly.

Tips to Beat Exam Stress

  • Self Talk. As corny as is sounds, big-upping yourself by what you say to yourself can make huge cuts in exam stress. What you say is up to you. But some exam stress beaters could include simple affirmations like: "I got this covered," "I'm gonna crack this exam," or "Exam's Up, Stress' down." The key is to repeat the same line over and over again like an advertisement until you can't get it out of your head.
  • Tell Haters to stay in their dorm. If a constant nail-biter is bringing you down, stay away. Or block out whatever negative they have to say.
  • Prepare. See our article on exam preparation. If you feel mentally full you feel confident and actually look forward to getting the exam over so can move on with your life.
  • Be Early for the Exam - but not TOO early! I found getting to an exam too early stressful as I'd catch onto the fear of my peers. 'That one over there's frenetically leafing through her notes at the last minute; this guys over here's babbling about his post exam mortem,' etc. But it was just as bad arriving in the nick of time, rushing to my seat, spilling my pencils and snacks onto the desk and scribbling my name down under stress. I think 10 minutes early is ideal.
  • Exercise Regularly. Yoga, tai chi, weights, running etc all de tangle your mind and force you to deep breathe. That oxygen high puts you back on top of your game and melts exam stress.
  • Get 7 hours Sleep a Night. Am I mad - give up study time to sleep?!$# It follows the Law of Diminishing Returns. The more you do to a point the better you do. But once you exceed that point, you do worse. So it is with sleep. Too much = wasted. Too little = you're wasted. Too stressed to sleep before an exam? Check out Power Nap Kit - Original Teen Edition audio cd.
  • Be Realistic about Exam Stress. You have to recognize the animal for what it is... an illusion. An irrational fear of an event unoccurred. Try thinking back about an exam you were stressed over a year ago. Did it turn out as bad as you expected? And what's the worst case scenario, say if you fail, is your life over? No! Check out our article on study bad boy Einstein. Exam does not mean End. You will live on to battle more exams another day!
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Article Last Updated: August 31 2014
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