How to manage exam stress

“Beta padh lo board exam sir par hain.”
(Study your board exams are round the corner son.)
“Mummy main tension nahi karta, tenson se kuchh fayda nahi.”
(I don’t like to get stressed mother. It’s no good.)
“Beta poore din main ek bhi ghanta revision nahi kiya, kuchh to tension kar.”
(Not an hour of studies the entire day. You better get some stress.)

I think you must have understood written above is a conversation between a mother and her happy go lucky son, just before exams. The child thinks that taking stress would deteriorate his performance but the mother knows better. Usually when we mention the word stress, we picture a worried or panicked person in our mind. We assume it is bad for our health physical or mental. The surprising fact is that the mother in the above conversation is right; little stress is good for performance. Let’s see how:
Good stress is a feeling of responsibility and determination that enables us to remain alert. It helps us to rise to the challenges that we face in our day-to-day living. The power rush is often felt as excitement or enthusiasm. The extra energy it induces, is the effect of adrenaline rushing through your bloodstream. This type of stress is called Eustress. Eustress provides that sense of challenge and motivation that can lead to greater performances. It can improve your performance, enhancing your awareness and sense of purpose.
A parent, teacher or a coach knows how hard to push his pupil to get the best out of him. If they experience the effects of positive stress they feel inspired and challenged. When somebody pushed them too hard they reach the fatigue level. When not pushed enough they are at a risk of remaining laid back. Both strategies prove wrong in first feel overworked and in second feel bored. Something that is described in the Yerkes-Dodson curve. (See the picture  below)


Yerkes-Dodson curve


Understanding the Yerkes-Dodson curve- According to this curve, as the level of stress increases, our performance increases. When we have the optimum stress we enter a state of best performance commonly known as ‘flow’. When we are experiencing ‘flow’ we are able to concentrate and focus on the task that we have to do and perform at your best.

After exceeding that optimal level of stress, we might feel inspired but it becomes strenuous and tiring. Beyond that range we feel burn out. Overwork, time pressures, performance anxiety or general over-stimulation are common reasons for fall in performance and should be managed. To escape this crippling bad stress we should follow some basic plans for our studies.
* Plan your revision
1.  Practice questions you might expect in your exams with the help of previous exam papers.
2. Restructure and condense your notes. Try to write and memorise concepts. It is slow but stays with you better than crammed answers.
3.  Plan answer outlines.
4.  Seek help and guidance from tutors if you don’t understand something.
5. Set aside plenty of time for revision.
* Plan your leisure
To keep stress in the optimum range and not cross to fatigue and burn out, we need to use relaxation and distraction. Divide the day into three periods of two and a half hours each and revise for any two of them. When you are not revising, get well away from your desk.

1.  Your brain needs energy and also rest. Eat little and often.
2. Keep yourself hydrated.
3. Plan a holiday per week.
4. Be cool and keep to a healthy lifestyle.
5. Exercise regularly! Find something you enjoy (swimming, jogging, walking or hiking etc.)
6. Practice Progressive relaxation, Yoga, breathing exercises to relax your mind and body.
7. Taking a bath and light walk after finishing studies and before sleeping gives you peaceful and deep sleep to recharge you for the next day.

* How to prevent panic on the night of the exam?
1. If you learn in advance how to relax; it gives you confidence. It gives you a belief that you are on the driving seat. If you panic, or your mind goes blank, you can regain control.
2. Try using humour to beat the negative thoughts (All iz well is a good idea). Watch a good movie, read a comic or magazine, or remember your favourite jokes. Do your best to be well prepared.
3. Avoid working the night just before the test, however anxious you feel. Take a walk, have a bath, talk to someone, go for a swim. Do something relaxing!
4.  Eat something, even if you feel sick. Bread, crackers or cereals are good tummy settlers.
5.  Try not to arrive at the exam hall too early, or too late. Seeing and interacting with other anxious people can raise your anxiety.
6.  Make sure you know the venue and time of exam. Keep your things like hall ticket, stationary and your clothes organised.
Develop a positive mental attitude and practice for stress relief. 
Once you understand that an optimum amount of stress is good for your performance; you can use it to your advantage. If you train yourself to take stress as an opportunity to learn, challenge, or stretch yourself, then you are likely to feel less stress. 
With a positive attitude to stress follow these guidelines, they will build your resilience to face exams better.


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