Exam stress? Take back control with these 4 easy methods
How do you feel about your exams? Close your eyes for a second. What thoughts come to mind?
Were they positive or negative?
I recently did an assembly at a school local to me in Northamptonshire. I asked the Year 12 students to do what I've just asked you to do. While they didn't share any of their actual thoughts in such a public environment, the vast majority admitted that their thoughts were negative. Exam stress was taking over.
Since then, more and more young people have been contacting me saying how stressed and anxious they are about their exams.
It is my mission to maximise your success in education and life, but also to show you how to achieve this success is a measured, calm and controlled way. I want to minimise your stress so you can enjoy your success! That's what my book, The Ten Step Guide To Acing Every Exam You Ever Take is all about and if you're going to take any more exams in the future I strongly suggest you get your hands on a copy.
However, today I'm going to address the burning issue of how to reduce exam stress TODAY!
How to relieve your exam stress
1. Take back control
The most stressful times in life are usually when you don't feel in control. Does this sound like you?
Work is heaping up on top of me and there isn't the time in the day to get it done and I don't know where to get started and I can't even finish my sentences before my mind goes off on another stressful tangent and I can hardly keep a lid on this stress and the worry about my grades and my future. Arghhhh!
If this is you, then you need to take back control.
Now, I admit, there are elements of exam season that you have no control over.
You can't say ‘no' if two exams are scheduled in one day.
You can't say ‘Hold up, I'm not ready to take this exam! Let's re-schedule until next week.'
You can't say, ‘Hang on a minute, I really don't like maths and don't want to take my maths GCSE EVER!'
With all these things, you just need to take a deep breath and get on with it.
But, there are things that you can control.
You can control when you get up in the morning. You can control what you eat and when you eat it. You can control how long you study for before you take a break. You can control how many subjects you study for in one evening. You can control how long before bed you stop working. You can control how far in advance of the exams you start revising.
Action step: take ten minutes to choose which things about your life you're going to take control of. I promise you, you'll feel better when you have made really conscious decisions about how and when you do certain things.How to relieve exam stress, tip no.1: Take back control Click To Tweet
2. Edit your life
Last year I discovered Sage Grayson, the Life Editor. Sage has this really nifty way of thinking about life when it needs a bit of a shake-up. And, when you're experiencing extreme stress your life needs a bit of a shake-up.
Basically, the life editing process works like this:
1. Create a foundation – start by recognise the bits of your life you love and are completely indispensible. This might be eating with your family every night, watching your favourite TV programme every Thursday or seeing your friends at the weekend.
2. Delete bad influences – get rid of the stuff that's holding you back. This can be as simple as saying no to negative thoughts, or taking leave from a part-time job that's stopping you from doing as much revision as you really need to do.
3. Add good habits and routines – say yes to positive thoughts and mantras, adding in ten minutes of speed revision every morning before school, or taking 10 minutes to mediate and clear your head before you start the evening's study.
4. Rearrange everything into a perfect flow – maybe you can't sleep because you revise up until the moment you turn into bed. Add in some wind-down time so your brain has time to switch off and you feel much better. Maybe you're only eating junk food and ready meals. Add some of nature's fast food, an apple or a banana, to your bag so you've got something healthy to snack on.
5. Make white-space for personal self-care – make sure there is some time in every day for you to look after yourself. Your time is so precious right now, but you must make time, even if it's only five minutes, where you can breathe more deeply and let your stressful thoughts go.
Action step: choose which simple edits you're going to make to your life this week to make it less stressful and run more smoothly for you.How to relieve exam stress, tip no.2: Edit your life with @sagegrayson1 Click To Tweet
3. Tear up negative thoughts
Are you punishing yourself with constant negative thoughts? Do any of these things run through your head on a daily, hourly or minute-by-minute basis?
I can't do enough revision, there isn't enough time.
I'm not clever enough, all this work's going to be wasted because I won't be able to answer the questions anyway.
I haven't done enough revision so there's no point in even starting.
These thoughts aren't going to help you. When you hear these thoughts going through your head do this:
Write them down on a piece of paper.
Look at them and try to find evidence to the contrary. So, if you're telling yourself you're not clever enough, think of the time you got the best mark you've ever had and focus on that.
Finally, rip up that thought and through it in the bin.
Action step: replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts. So, if you're telling yourself you haven't got enough time to revise, change this to a positive affirmation such as:
“I am enough. I have all the intelligence and time I need to ace these exams.”
Few people have achieved anything really remarkable when they've let negative thoughts beat them.How to relieve exam stress, tip no.3: Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Click To Tweet
4. Exam stress quick fixes
- Take three really deep breaths
- Go outside
- Place you fingers on your temples and imagine all your stressful thoughts leaving your head through your fingers
- Repeat a positive mantra to yourself e.g. ‘I'm an intelligent and hard-working person. My target grades are there for the taking.'
- Look at a happy photograph
- Close your eyes and focus on a happy memory
Action step: try one of these quick fixes NOW! I defy you not to feel just a teensy bit better.How to relieve exam stress quick fixes: go outside, take 3 deep breaths, smile or laugh Click To Tweet
A word to the wise…
Your exam stress is justified. This is one of the most stressful times of your life. Things that are truly worth doing nearly always involve some self-sacrifice. But, there are lots of things you can do to minimise exam stress and feel confident every time you walk into the exam hall.
Time to reduce your exam stress
Now, stop being an exam stress victim and take one of the actions I've suggested above. Keep yourself accountable and leave a comment saying which method you're going to use. I'd love do know how it goes, so come back and leave a comment telling me how successful it's been.