Tips on coping with exam stress
Psychiatrist Dr Michael Simpson gives advice and tips on coping with examination stress.
A modest amount of stress and anxiety can provide valuable stimulus that gets us to study and prepare, otherwise we might not bother to put in our best effort, according to Simpson.
Exams are one of the most stressful of experiences we routinely endure and inflict on others.
The issues we explore should also be useful to our regulars if you, or members of your family, are facing exams, job assessments, job interviews, and similar ordeals.
We'll be looking at some key aspects of coping with the stress of the exams already upon us.
- Firstly, not all stress is bad for us – the trick is to get the dose right. If you find exams to be relaxing, or pure pleasure, then you must be missing something here! A modest amount of stress and anxiety can provide valuable stimulus that gets us to study and prepare, otherwise we might not bother to put in our best effort. Anxiety is normal. The exam results are important to you, and not entirely predictable – anyone can be anxious about that. But you don't need to become so anxious that you're crippled by fear. You need to control the anxiety, and not let it control you. You're the boss, even if it doesn't feel like it.
- Diet is critical - forget the pizzas and late night burgers. Focus on eating low GI foods that give longer lasting energy - instead of white bread, opt for wholemeal / multigrain. Instead of white rice, go for brown. Add in a protein shake for snacks instead of lollies or chips, or try adding some superfoods to increase the nutrient value.. all of these low GI foods will give more sustained energy and help you concentrate / focus for longer.
- Omega-3 levels are also critical for study and stress management. Omega-3s make up 20% of the brain and can be found in food sources such as salmon, tuna, chia seeds and walnuts. Taking an omega-3 supplement, such as fish oil or calamari oil, can benefit brain function in those who do not get enough dietary omega-3 and help with the pressures and demands of study and exams.
- During times of stress, the body requires additional nutrients, particularly vitamin B and vitamin C. Some natural health practitioners recommend magnesium during times of high stress, as it helps maintain normal muscle function.
- We don't like being in situations where we can't entirely control what happens, especially when the result really matters to us. One important response is to decide to control what you can control, and not waste time getting worked up over the elements that you can't control.
- Above all, try to avoid getting anxious about getting anxious. Otherwise, you can set up a feedback loop. What's that? If a microphone accidentally points at a loudspeaker, small sounds get whipped back and forth, amplified each time, ending in an ear-splitting screech. In other words, don't make your own natural anxiety such a big deal that it frightens you.Sometimes anxiety needs to be placed in quarantine. When seriously anxious people get together, they can act as an amplifier and get jointly more frightened. If you have friends who get very anxious, wish them well, but don't spend time with them as anxiety can be infectious. If you are blessed with friends who take things calmly, time spent with them may help you cool off, too.
- It's well known that many people think that the use of drugs – both legal and illegal, prescription or street – can help when coping with stress. They are actually highly likely to damage your chances of success even in the short term. You shouldn't actually use anything, unless you have very specific kinds of stress problems.
Till then, good luck with the studying.
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