Exam stress can affect everything from your appetite to your sleep pattern. It can give you migraines, increase your heart rate, cause unexpected aches and pains, as well as prompting a host of other health issues (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/coping-with-exam-stress.aspx). The first thing you need to do is recognise when you are becoming stressed and act accordingly. Powering through is of no use to anyone. The easiest option is to take a physical approach to management, ensuring that you eat well, exercise daily and get sufficient sleep. Failing to do any of these things will degrade your performance, even under normal circumstances.
When you are beginning to feel stress, take a break and have a chat with someone who understands the pressure. It can be very cathartic to commiserate with someone in the same position as you. However, recognise that some conversation topics are unhelpful. Nobody likes the friend who says things like “I only managed to study for nine hours yesterday”, forcing us to second-guess ourselves. Everyone has their own approach so have faith in yours, especially if you know it’s working. For the same reason, avoid discussing the exam after its over. It has no practical function (you can’t go back and change anything) and it might cause you to loose focus on the exams you still have to do. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1HsY1X8ySjKBMVXPVCbP4qH/exam-stress).
Don’t resort to bad habits. Smoking, drinking and trying to stay up all night studying never helped anyone. A good night’s sleep cannot be replaced by three cups of coffee and a cold shower. Instead, consider meditation as a way of calming you down and reinforcing self-belief. There is a range of different apps on the market that might help you practice this new skill (http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/the-10-best-meditation-apps-8947570.html). Such approaches also help you keep things in perspective. Your work might seem like the most important thing in the world right now, but whatever happens, changes can be made and problems can be managed. Trying to be perfect is also detrimental because it adds additional pressure to an already difficult situation. Accept that you will make mistakes, everybody does, and don’t let them block your path.
Remaining in a good frame of mind is vital for staying healthy throughout the exam period. It also ensures your best possible performance and stress has been shown, on numerous occasions, to degrade results. It may be a challenge, but try and view what is happening to you now as an opportunity. You are likely to face numerous different stresses in future, and learning to manage them in a healthy manner now will serve you well throughout your life. Remember that this is not your life, it is just part of it, and one day it will all be a distant memory.
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