How to Deal with Exam Stress and Anxiety?

by Ann Xavier Choolackal

03 April,2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is the time of the year that the youth of the nation faces major life event- board exams.  This is undoubtedly one time period where the teacher, students and parents are all stressed out. Sarasin, an author and motivational speaker, said that “We live in a test-conscious, test-giving culture in which the lives of people are in part determined by their test performance”.

Why is there stress during exams?

Even though most of the students have faced a lot of exams in their role as a student, and all of them might have experienced various levels of anxiety; when it comes to board exams, this reaches a different dimension and intensity. The reason could be more of a societal aspect than individual. There is an emphasis on social dimension where the performance is judged by everyone and especially in Indian scenario, the neighbours and distant relatives are also explicitly looking forward to the performance results! Apart from the judgement of the society three components cognitive, affective and behavioural components contribute to stress during exam time.

Some pointers for seeking help are:

  • Lack of sleep or excess sleep.
  • Lack of appetite or excess appetite.
  • Moodiness and lack of energy.
  • Constant negative remarks about themselves or about their future.
  • Complaints of memory lapse which are not validated.
  • Excessive sweating, shivering, trembling, dryness of mouth, hot flashes, palpitations, shortness of breath etc

If these (one or more) are persistently occurring for more than 2 weeks, it is highly recommended to seek help. 

How to maintain optimal levels of stress?

Students often neglect their health. It is a common belief that, to cope with the workload it is important to ‘cram’ as much information as possible, it is necessary to make temporary changes to, and sacrifices in, lifestyle. This includes not making time to eat proper meals, not sticking to usual exercise routines and leisure activities and altering sleeping patterns. As a result, many students find that they become drained, run-down, or ill, right in the middle of the exam period, precisely when they need to be at their best. 

The aim should be to maintain your physical efficiency always and particularly around exam time. 

This requires:

 • regular nutritious meals 

• regular sleep 

• regular exercise 

• regular ‘rest & relaxation pauses’ 

• regular leisure time 

These activities are beneficial for exams because they:

 • maintain your energy levels

 • help you to stay well

 • enhance your concentration

Tips during exams: 

The following are some suggestions that can help you to manage exam anxiety and allow it to work for you: 

• Prepare thoroughly – when it comes to finding solutions to exam anxiety, thorough preparation should be one of the first things you try. The more confident you feel about the material being examined, the less likely you will be to perceive the exam environment as threatening. 

• Watch for the negative and self-defeating thoughts. During an exam it is important to identify and stop these thoughts and replace them with more productive, positive ones. The more you have practised this before the exam the easier it will be during the exam. 

• Use your breathing to control the stress reaction. This can be done on the way to the exam, outside the exam room, during the exam, and/or immediately after. Slow your breathing rate and breathe using your abdominal muscles so that the breath goes into the lower parts of your lungs. Repeat this many times. Tensing (as you inhale) and then relaxing (as you exhale) muscles can also help to reduce stress. Visualising yourself in a peaceful place for just a few moments can help enormously. The key to using any of these techniques successfully is practice.

Tips to parents:

  • Encourage and motivate your children.
  • Remind them to eat and sleep properly.
  • Help them relax and have some leisure as well.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits.
  • Help with making a schedule that includes regular sleep, exercise and leisure.
  • Talk to them about other things than exams with them.
  • Ask them if they are fine.
  • Remind them putting in efforts is their part and once that is done sit back and relax.
  • Most important, don’t hesitate to tell them these exams do not determine your love or respect for them.