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How to handle exam-related stress

Exam related stressThe recent incidences of school going children committing suicide, fearing bad marks or failing in an exam had me thinking about the time when I was a student. The pressure both amongst peers and family to be a top ranking student was so strong that it could make the strongest person crumble. I belong to a generation where the pressure to exceed was enormous, and today it seems that same pressure has only magnified. The belief that if you do not score amongst the top 10 in your class, you are not good enough for society, is slowly but steadily eroding our youth. The one track belief that being a doctor or an engineer is the only way to get to the top is resulting in an ever growing number of unsatisfied adults, stuck in their dead end jobs and constantly unhappy for the rest of their lives.

Another problem is the school environment, where marks are everything, failure is looked down upon and only your ability to memorize your text word-for-word is lauded. But what about those children who can't memorize but can learn? Isn't that why we want our children to have an education, to be able to use it in the real world?

If you are a student appearing for an exam, remember that there are other professions apart from medicine or engineering. If your passion lies in being a doctor, or an engineer, it is the best thing for you to do, but just going after it because your entire class is, is a bad idea! Putting undue pressure on yourself is only going to result in unwanted stress. Here are a few symptoms of stress you should look out for:

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Symptoms of stress:

  • If experience difficulty in falling asleep or don't want to wake up.
  • If you are constantly tired.
  • If you find you are losing interest in activities that you enjoyed earlier.
  • If you experience unexplained aches and pains.
  • You don't feel hungry or feel nauseous.
  • If you are more irritable or anxious than normal.
  • If you have a constant or repeatedly occurring headaches.
  • If you experience your heart beating faster, also known as palpitations.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stress.

These are the general symptoms, but your general state of mind also plays an important role in determining if you actually are stressed or not. Just before your exams, you can do the following things to keep your stress levels in check;

  • If you feel stressed out, take a break. Chat with your friends or just go for a walk This will help you clear your head and get things into perspective.
  • Do not compare or talk about how much of your portion you have finished or anything related to your studies. Everybody has a different pace of studying, embrace yours. Make achievable targets and work towards achieving it. Making a check list always helps in encouraging you to achieve your target.
  • Always eat nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. Your brain cannot function to its best if all you are giving it is junk food. Think of yourself as a machine, it will not work well if you don't give it the right fuel.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep. It's a common practice to pull all-nighters before an exams, but this habit can severely hamper your performance. Apart from the risk that you might fall asleep during the exam, there is also the real possibility that you might blank out on less sleep.
  • Do not panic. It will only lead to you forgetting what you already know. Read your paper calmly and start by answering questions you already know the answers to. Then attempt the difficult questions.

If you are done with your exams, here is how you can handle result related anxiety:

Exams or the results are not the end of the world: Studying for an exam is mandatory to learn and do well, but do not stress out because of it. Address the fears you might have, do you think you might fail? Or do you think you will do well, but not as good as your parents or peers expected? Remember that the marks you get on one paper are not going to decide your entire life. There are a number of eminent people in the world who were so severely disabled when it came to studies that they could not even clear a single paper. Your marks will only show you where you need to improve. Remember there is always a next time.

Suicide is not the answer: If you feel the pressure mounting, take a short break and just relax. You could try deep breathing or just going out for a walk. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling and why you are feeling so. Taking your life, because you are afraid of the consequences is the worst thing you can do to yourself and family.

Talk to your parents: Your parents are just worried about you. If you feel your parents are putting too much pressure on you, talk to a teacher or a counsellor. Tell them and ask for help getting rid of the stress. If you have no such recourse, talk to your parents and tell them how you are feeling.

If you are a parent, it is important that you understand your child's point of view and state of mind. It will help your child a great deal if you help him/her understand you are there at all times. Making them feel like they have someone who will understand their state of mind, will help them relax and accept the results without fear. Do not stigmatise a child who is unable to perform, or feel ashamed of him/her, instead hone their talents. Children are smarter than you think, they are very good in picking up on your moods without you speaking a word, so keep in mind that you have to be whole heartedly supportive.

Also Read:

Exam diet: Foods to boost your brain power

Top 10 ways to survive the exams

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