Feeling stressed can be very normal, and everyone will feel stressed from time to time. Unfortunately, though, exam stress can bring out the worst in your anxiety. Becoming aware of what causes your anxiety is the first step in reducing stress. Sometimes it takes time to realise why you are feeling the way you are, but once you identify it, you can manage it better.


Step 1: Identifying symptoms

It is normal to suffer from anxiety during exam time and symptoms can often include:

  1. Difficulty in getting to sleep/sleepless nights or waking up in the morning
  2. Constant tiredness
  3. Irritability or short temper
  4. Forgetfulness
  5. Poor appetite or comfort eating snacking
  6. Loss of interest in activities
  7. Migraines/headaches
  8. Tendency to drink more alcohol or smoke more


Step 2: Identifying causes of stress

It is important to take some time out and identify what is causing the problem. Once you have identified this, it is easier to manage your stress and you can start looking for some solutions.

  1. Being a generally anxious person – worrier
  2. You’ve had a bad experience in previous exams
  3. Being poorly prepared
  4. You’re a perfectionist
  5. You’re not feeling well or on medication


Step 3: Managing the stress

Sometimes small steps can make the biggest difference. Rather than think of the huge overall change, think of the small steps you need to take to achieve your overall goal of reducing stress. Here are some small things to change in your daily life to help reduce anxiety:

  1. Recognise when you are stressing out and have a break or chat with someone who understands your anxiety and will help you get things into perspective.
  2. Everyone revises differently and what works best for some doesn’t for others. Don’t create an unrealistic timetable to keep up with friends as this will just demotivate you. Be realistic in what you can achieve in a day.
  3. Eat healthy. You might think you don’t have enough time to cook or make a healthy meal but it will fuel your brain and body for much longer and won’t have you constantly heading to the snacks cupboard which will only make you feel sluggish over time.
  4. Students often boast about the little sleep they get due to studying but this does more harm than good. You can’t concentrate if you’re tired. Make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours a night so you’re fresh to revise the next day. Avoid studying in bed as this should be a sanctuary, not a desk.
  5. Exercise can be a great way to destress the mind instantaneously and make you feel good about yourself. Behaving like a sloth, most likely means your mind is being lazy too. Yoga can also help calm you and can be done anywhere. Try doing some yoga poses when you feel yourself getting stressed or when you wake up/go to sleep to start/end the day positively.
  6. Eliminate unhealthy habits: cigarettes and alcohol never stopped anyone being stressed for long.
  7. Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths). So, if you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breath in and out through the nose, counting to five each way.
  8. Steer clear of any exam ‘post-mortem’. It doesn’t matter what your mate wrote for Question 4(a), it’s too late to go back and change your answers and it will just make you worry even more.


Things may seem intense now but it won’t last forever, don’t forget that there is a life after exams!

Also published on Medium.