Six simple ways to eliminate exam anxiety

By Sherley Alaba

It was 3 a.m. and I couldn’t shut my textbooks. My hands were sweaty and my fingers were numb as I fervently turned the pages, hoping to cover as much material as possible before sunrise. The pressure of upcoming exams had been slowly getting to me, and engulfed me all at once. As I was struggling with the impending thought of failure, I realized that the worst feeling was yet to come — the feeling that after studying for hours on end, I wouldn’t remember anything when the time came to take the exam.

Have you ever experienced similar feelings when studying for a test? If you have, then you might have exam anxiety.

Students should take regular breaks while studying. (Flickr)

Dealing with exam anxiety can lead you to the point of breaking down. However, instead of letting the stress get to you, you should deal with it head-on. It’s important to accept that you will be stressed and welcome it. Stress is a normal mental response to a high-pressure situation, according to Florida Hospital Centra Care.

Once you are able identify and accept that you are stressed, you’re then ready to help yourself. If you have been overwhelmed with the responsibility of balancing work, multiple classes, demanding schedules and extra activities, you are not alone. There are tons of other students in the same boat. Identify who those other students are so that you can work together to steer the rocky boat that is exam period.

When it comes to studying for your exams, don’t procrastinate! Create a study group, and use other students in your class as motivators to help you study ahead of time.

However, sometimes studying ahead of time is not enough. Exam anxiety can lead you to forget all of the materials you learned, which is why it’s important for you to listen carefully to the next few tidbits of advice I have for you when studying below.

Breathe! Get out of the house and get some fresh air. Give yourself a chance to re-energize. Locking yourself in your room with your textbooks around you will only make it worse, so break free. Catch up with friends, watch a movie or just take your dog for a walk. Make yourself a treat or a nice cup of coffee and try to relax.

Take regular breaks. You need to switch off the worry button in your mind and allow yourself to relax. Is the weekend approaching? Don’t make plans with friends, but take time for yourself. You don’t have to sleep the whole day away. Just do something that you enjoy and makes you happy. You need to refresh your mind before you start using it again in full gear.

Take up a hobby. Yes, I know you have a packed schedule, but it’s important to take time for yourself. You need to set aside time for when you’re focusing specifically on school, and separate it from when you want to focus on having what your definition is of fun.

Practice self-talk by talking positively to yourself. Stress can evoke negative feelings and make you feel more emotional and high-strung. In fact, stress can take over your personality. Stress also results in self-doubt and a host of other challenges, according to the Positivity Blog, a website dedicated to practical advice on happiness. Interrupt your negative thoughts before they take over your mind. You can keep a small notepad to remind yourself of all the positivity in your life. Keeping track of the voice inside your head will give you better control of your internal monologue.

Mindfulness is my next piece of advice while studying for exams. Focus on the present moment and have self-awareness. Peacefully accept that you can’t control the date or material of an exam, but you can handle how you study for it and who you study with. This method is a proven success in changing the function of the brain related to stress. Make sure you practice mindfulness and stay more aware and in-control of your thoughts and feelings. Letting stress control your life is the biggest obstacle between you and your academic success.

Do some exercise. I know that’s the last thing you want to think about right now, but one of the most common side effects of stress is ignoring your health. You need to put yourself together to make sure you are ready to fight and make a stronger comeback. If a hardcore workout is not your cup of tea, try some yoga. The practice helps relax both your muscles and minds and is, therefore, a win-win for you.

Stop thinking of studying for an exam as a burden, think of it as an opportunity. Keep a positive mindset whenever you are ready to open a book, because everything we learn contributes toward the greater good — our diploma. Heed my advice and take time for yourself, plan ahead and never let stress affect your performance in a class or in your personal life ever again.