Burned out during exam time? An expert offers his practical suggestions for stress management. 

It’s okay to feel stressed during exam season. You have so many pressures to contend with: the academic workload; parental or peer pressure; adhering to a study schedule during the preparatory period, and finally, writing the exam. Some amount of stress is good for you, and can actually improve your scores.

But too much is detrimental, so learn how to manage extreme stress and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Do invest in building smarter and more effective study skills. Exams do not always have to imply last minute flurries! Learn to take care of yourself and manage your social and family responsibilities effectively too.

Strategies for Stress Management

  1. Get enough sleep. Contrary to the popular saying, you need not burn the midnight lamp to study before an exam. Instead, plan your studies, and ensure that you get an adequate sleep, especially before the examination.
  2. Make healthy lifestyle choices.  Maintain a regular and disciplined routine prior to and during the exam season. Eating healthy meals and do some daily exercise. It’s a myth that caffeine, nicotine, or any other substance, can improve your concentration during exams. On the contrary, they are likely to increase your anxiety levels, adding to the stress.
  3. Avoid last minute flurries.The morning of an exam is not the time for frantic last minute revisions, since these only lead to confusion and stress. Talk to your friends about everything but studies! It is more important to be calm, than to try and cram new information at the last second.
  4. Be realistic about your expectations.Even if the results do not seem to be proportionate to your results, do keep in mind the influence of various external factors, when you do a self- evaluation.
  5. Fight peer-pressure.Competing with your peers may help motivate you at times. However, it is important to avoid making comparisons between your work and anyone else’s. Instead, you should work towards fulfilling your own expectations of yourself.
  6. An exam is not the end of your life. Exams are just a small part of your life, and don’t determine your entire future.  They are simply a stepping stone for you: the success of your life doesn’t depend upon exam results. Rather, success depends upon how you cope with the multiple challenges of life.
  7. Don’t hesitate to talk about it.Remember, it is normal to feel anxious during exams. But you must talk about the way you feel. Reach out for help. You can share your feelings with your friends, family or teachers.  If you simply can’t cope, do reach out to a counsellor.

Dr Samir Parikh is the Director of Department of Mental Health & Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.