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Managing stress during exam season

With exams just around the corner, student stress levels are at an all-time high. To help you cope during this busy period we’ve put together a guide full of handy tips to help you manage and relieve your stress so that you can #StressLess.

Student studying with a laptop on a wood table

With exams just around the corner, student stress levels are at an all-time high. To help you cope during this busy period we’ve put together a guide full of handy tips to help you manage and relieve your stress so that you can #StressLess.


What is stress?

Stress is a mental and/or emotional state that occurs in reaction to demanding circumstances and can manifest itself in a number of emotional, physical and cognitive symptoms like agitation, headaches, insomnia and an inability to focus.

While stress in small doses can have a positive effect in helping to motivate you and push you to your fullest potential, prolonged and excessive stress can have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing.


So how can you manage Stress?
 

Just breathe

Breathing is something that most of us don’t think twice about let alone associate with stress relief. Though breathing slowly and mindfully has actually been scientifically proven to help relieve stress and anxiety. The action of breathing deeply and slowly stimulates parts of our brain to send out stress-inhibiting neurohormones that in turn trigger a relaxation response in the body. So, next you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed take a series of slow, deep breaths, using your nose to inhale and your mouth to exhale.

Stay Hydrated

We cannot stress enough (no pun intended) how important staying hydrated is for relieving stress. Dehydration causes tiredness and confusion which makes it hard to revise and retain information and in turn adds to exam stress. As our bodies (including our brains) are mostly made of water, we suggest staying hydrated with water. Water has many benefits and amongst other things it helps to keep you alert and to think, focus and concentrate better and is calorie free. In contrast, most sweetened drinks are full of sugar which can result in a roller coaster effect on your energy levels, consisting of sugar highs and lows that can adversely affect mood and concentration.

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is an important part of managing stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as it effects mood, memory and judgement. The NHS suggests that adults need to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, though ironically stress can make getting this amount of sleep very difficult. If you are finding sleeping difficult, we suggest trying to make changes to improve your sleeping space and habits e.g. making sure your room is dark enough, relaxing an hour before you go to sleep, not revising in bed etc...

Don’t Cram

Many students make the mistake of mismanaging their time throughout the semester and then try to counteract this by studying intensely right before the exam aka ‘cramming’. Despite its popularity, cramming has been proven time and time again to be an ineffective method of revising. Cramming can in fact increase your levels of stress by making you feel more overwhelmed. Instead we suggest creating a revision schedule with sessions that are well spread out throughout the term.

Exercise

It’s no secret that exercise is an excellent stress reliever but for those of you that need some extra convincing, here’s the science…Exercise stimulates the brain to secrete endorphins – your body’s ‘feel-good’ hormones. Endorphins are mood elevators and have been shown to improve sleep and in turn stress. There’s no need to panic though, exercise does not have to be intensive to release endorphins. Gentle exercise like yoga and Pilates also release endorphins.

Take Regular Breaks

Periods of rest have been shown to be an important and essential part of effective work and study. Studies conducted on workers have revealed that regular breaks made workers more productive. This is because resting periods allow the brain to recall and associate seemingly unrelated material to the topic at hand – so yeah, a good excuse nip out the library and down to the vendor.

Listen to Music

The ability that music has to affect our moods is something that is well documented and something that I’m sure that we’ve all experienced. Music is unique in its ability to directly link with our emotions. It has the power to lift our mood when we’re feeling down or motivate us when we’re in need of a boost at the gym, making it an extremely effective stress management tool. Slow paced meditation or classical music for example, can be used to relax the mind and body. Listening to the slow paced, mellow tones have a physiological effect by slowing your pulse and heart rate, in turn decreasing the level of stress hormones.

Meditate

Meditation is the ancient Eastern practice of training the mind to achieve a state of complete clarity and/or relaxation. Reported benefits of mediation include reduced stress and improved happiness and concentration. With dozens of different types of meditation out there, choosing the right method for you can seem a bit daunting. Lucky for you, we’ve done a bit of research and found the best free meditation apps on the app market.

  • Meditation & Relaxation: Guided Meditation by Fitness22
  • Minspace by Mindspace Inc
  • Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax by Calm.com Inc

Don’t be so hard on Yourself

Many students cause themselves a lot of unnecessary additional stress by worrying about the possibility that they may not get a first-class degree, not remembering that they can only do their best. Our solution? Don’t be so hard on yourself, if your best is only a third, 2:2 or 2:1 you should take solace in the fact you tried your best and you got the job done.

Talk to someone

As the old saying goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. Meaning that by just talking with someone about a problem, you can make the problem significantly smaller. Whether that person is a friend, family member or counsellor, just talking to someone about your problems relieves stress by helping you sort through your feelings and put things into perspective.

 

Remember if you try the above methods and are still feeling stressed, our LBSU Advice Service are always on hand to help. You can contact them here.

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