When I first came to Acadia, I didn’t think exam season would be so stressful. Silly first year me was under the impression that University exams would be just the same as High School, and that I could cram the night before. Well folks, I was wrong. In High School, it was easy to pull an all-nighter and memorize the required information needed to pass the exam. If you can reproduce what you were taught, or solve the exact kinds of problems you were shown how to solve, High School exams are no problem. University, however, isn’t about memorization. It is about the ability to take what you’ve learned and apply it to new situations and new kinds of problems. While this may seem obvious, it took me a few anxiety attacks to figure it out. For my first exam at Acadia, I didn’t bother studying until the night before. Three hours into my study session and I realized how big of a mistake that was. I stayed awake until 6:00 in the morning, and then passed out with my head on my text book. My exam was at 9:00 am, and I woke up around five minutes before that. That experience threw me off for the remainder of my exams and before each of them I had severe anxiety. Unfortunately, this followed me throughout my exams for the following semesters as well. It wasn’t until my third year at Acadia when I began to grasp how to properly deal with exam anxiety, and I am here to share with my fellow students how I managed to do so.
This may seem obvious, but it’s something that even the most seasoned exam writers need to be reminded of. The earlier you start in your revision process, the less anxious you will feel. Most exam season anxiety stems from feeling unprepared. Don’t make that an option!
2. Take a Break!
If you are constantly studying, you’re going to burn yourself out. If not, then you will certainly become irritable and it will become harder to retain information. Burn out is a sure-fire way to give yourself unnecessary anxiety. Go for a walk, take a moment to stretch, or grab a snack! Keep your body happy, and your mind will return the favour.
Your brain is on over drive during exam season. You’re revising material from multiple classes, or learning material you’ve been neglecting, all at once. That’s a lot for the brain to take! Not to mention the added stressors from every day life on top of that. Your mind needs its rest just as much as your body does. The benefits from a good night’s sleep are endless. Some may be thinking: no way! The more sleep I get, the less time I have to study! Listen, I understand the anxiety that comes with that. But not sleeping properly during this stressful time will only make your body even more susceptible to symptoms of anxiety. Plus, proper sleep helps your mind settle all the newly taken in information into your long-term memory! Your lack of sleep will catch up with you, and in my experience this will happen at the least opportune times- like during your exam.
4. Let It Out
Don’t bottle it up. Once you start feeling the anxiety kick in, begin the steps to combat it. The earlier you catch it, the more successful you will be. Rant to a friend, call your mom, or speak to counselling services. If you begin to feel symptoms of anxiety, the tense feelings in your body will build up until it reaches its peak; usually right before, or during, your exam. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to somebody about these feelings, let your anxious feelings out in a different way! Deep breathing exercises, yoga, and listening to music are some good ways to let it out. It all depends on what each person feels is best for them. Find what helps you fight your anxious feelings, and practice it.
5. Fuel Your Body
Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your body healthy! A stress-free body is a stress-free mind. I know it may seem like a good idea to survive off caffeine and junk food, but you aren’t doing your body any favours. The better fuel your body gets, the better fuel your mind gets. Opt instead for healthy snacks: fruit and veggies are the obvious choices for healthy foods, but you aren’t limited to just those options. Nuts are an excellent choice, you can’t go wrong with yogurt, and dark chocolate is a great option for those who still wish to be indulgent. If you need caffeine to get through your studying (like I do), stick with coffee and teas. Energy drinks will only cause your body to crash harder and faster. However, make sure you don’t overdo your caffeine intake. Hydrate your body with water, and you’ll thank yourself. Hydration will aid stress headaches, muscle aches, and combats fatigue. Your body can’t run at full capacity if you aren’t given it the proper fuel, and water is one of the most important sources of energy for your body.
Late nights, missed meals, and pent up tension will wreak havoc on your ability to concentrate. The above tips may seem obvious, but it’s good to be reminded of these things in the middle of a stressful time. If all else fails, be sure to take advantage of the fantastic de-stressing activities provided on campus. There are several activities hosted in the library beginning April 3rd and lasting through exam season. For a full list of these activities, be sure to check out the library’s Facebook page. Good luck, Axemen and Axewomen!