Exams are a lot of pressure, whether they’re for an Advanced Diploma in Business or a course in General English. Sometimes this can help you to stay focused, but it can also cause stress.
Common symptoms of stress include:
- Feeling confused and overwhelmed
- Feeling moody and low
- Trouble sleeping or getting out of bed
- Losing touch with friends and avoiding ‘out of study’ activities
- Tense muscles or headaches
- An upset stomach or feelings of nausea
- Fidgeting, nail biting or teeth grinding
- Lack of motivation
Stress can be a usual part of student life. When 2,600 students were surveyed nationally, 83% said they suffered from stress. But there are ways to manage it, starting with your pre-exam nerves.
Calming pre-exam nerves
Pre-exam nerves lead the charge when it comes to stress, even if they’re temporary. Manage them early with:
It sounds obvious, but making sure you have adequate time to study will reduce your anxiety. Talk to your educators about the format and expectations of your exams, and create a study schedule early on and stick to it.
Stay organised, make lots of notes, and be honest about your own expectations. Focus on gradual success, rather than panicking at the last minute and ‘over studying’.
A poor diet can contribute to anxiety, so nutrition plays an important role in your management of pre-exam nerves. As well as maintaining a well-balanced diet, don’t drink too much alcohol and caffeine in the lead up to your exams.
Drink plenty of water, and aim for magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, kale, nuts and seeds. Also look for foods with probiotics, which can help manage symptoms of anxiety by keeping your gut healthy.
Sleep improves memory and concentration, so make sure you get enough before your exams. It’s also necessary for good recall – if you pull an all-nighter before an exam, you probably won’t remember much of what you studied.
Ideally, you should be aiming for eight-hours sleep the night before an exam. Eating dinner at least two hours before bedtime and a cup of chamomile tea can help you achieve this. You could even sweeten your tea with honey, which contains tryptophan to help you sleep.
Taking a bath with Epsom salt might not be an option if you’re on campus, but luckily both our Sydney and Melbourne campuses are just a stone’s throw from some truly exquisite spas. Why not treat yourself to an afternoon massage and spa to ensure you sleep well? Top it off with a spray of aromatherapy oil on your sheets and pillow, which can cause your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that promotes restful sleep.
Meditation can improve your comprehension, memory and concentration, and reduce your stress and anxiety levels. Post-meditation, your mind is less likely to wander, helping you stay focused. Learning the art of meditation, which includes regulating your breathing, can also help you during your exam.
It’s been well-documented that stress can reduce proper immune function, increasing your susceptibility to coughs and colds – not good around exam time. This is why herbal supplements are recommended.
Herbal supplements are great for reducing stress and anxiety without any undesirable side effects, such as grogginess and poor concentration. Kava might be one of the most-effective, not only for anxiety symptoms but for controlling anxiety as well. Kava has a natural calming effect that can relieve restlessness, sleeplessness, muscle tension and other stress-related symptoms. Lemon balm in tea form is another herbal supplement you might like to try.
Exams can be seen as an opportunity to highlight all the hard work you have done, so approach them with enthusiasm, thinking ‘pleasure’ instead of ‘pressure’. Exams give you something to strive for. They get the neurons firing, and teach you to manage your time and stress by giving you a ‘deadline’. Be grateful for the opportunity, and look to exams with positivity.
Research shows that stretching can help reduce stress and anxiety. Stretch for at least fifteen seconds and you can loosen muscles and joints, removing stress from the body. Stretch the knots in your muscles, and you’ll increase blood flow and circulation. With each stretch you hold, practice your deep breathing to promote full oxygen exchange.
You’ve studied hard, had a good sleep, eaten well, taken your supplements, meditated, stayed positive and stretched – now it’s time to exercise before the big test.
Research tells us that exercising 20 minutes before an exam can elevate your score. Exercising expands the basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and executive control of your thoughts. The best results come from aerobic exercise, such as walking and running. Why not jog to your exam?
Impact of nerves on performance
When you experience high levels of nerves before exams you may see a decline in your performance. Nerves make you see exams as a threat, and your response makes it hard to concentrate. Put simply, your cognitive capability isn’t what it should be.
If you identify yourself as a person with high nerves, learn how to manage them before they impact your performance. Engage in self-care strategies such as the ones above and make relaxation training an important part of student-life. Putting time into your relaxation is just as important as putting time into your study.
Can’t get a grip on your pre-exam nerves and worried they will get in the way of your success? Lonsdale Institute is here to support you in any way you need, so talk to us about what you’re experiencing. Our commitment is to see that you succeed across all your academic requirements, as well as ensure you have a strong sense of well-being in your new environment.