Anxiety is a natural and spontaneous reaction to certain conditions or situations that we may perceive as threats or ones we think we do not have complete control over. Consequently, the release of cortisol, cortisone, adrenaline, and norepinephrine changes how we feel, think, and act, bringing about a lack of concentration, the deep desire to postpone exams, and the yearning to escape, which sometimes makes a student want to drop out of a program.
It is quite normal to be nervous before submitting a paper or taking an exam; it is a part of the student experience and can help sharpen your mind and focus your attention. Exam anxiety, on the other hand, is an almost debilitating fear of failure that can have a far-reaching effect on mind and body and manifest itself with some serious symptoms, including:
- High heart rate and palpitations
- Poor sleep
- Constant fatigue
- Headaches and migraines
- Trembling and weakness
- Mood swings and irritability
- Shortness of breath and a heavy chest
- Loss of Appetite
There are several strategies one can deploy to reduce exam anxiety. The following ten best tips should help you with a sensible and practical approach to alleviate exam anxiety and help you ace the next test. They are divided into two continuing sections – the first five tips are more personal, and the remaining five tips have more to do with studying.
1. De-Stress and Relax
Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, unwind and de-stress, and help you stay calm and confident. You might also want to consider taking a stroll in a park, or closing your eyes and imagining a positive outcome, or listening to some soothing music, or even indulging in a relaxing bath.
2. Exercise to Stay Fit & Reduce anxiety
Stretching your muscles one at a time, regular aerobic exercise, or light to moderate exercising can release tension in your body and reduce anxiety. If you play a sport, avoid playing it competitively, and make sure it does not eat into your study time. Any physical activity is good for the mind and body.
3. Well-Balanced Diet
Eat a well-balanced diet with healthy, wholesome foods that can supply enough fuel to your brain and the rest of your body. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or some fresh fruit juices but stay well away from sugary drinks such as soda pop, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet, leaving you tired and needlessly hungry. Caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or coffee are known to increase anxiety and are best avoided entirely. Add magnesium, zinc, vitamin-b, and omega-3 rich foods to your diet, along with foods that are rich in antioxidants. Most importantly, eat in decent portions and eat on time.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can not only give rise to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and poor mental health, it is also directly related to academic performance. Getting to sleep at the right time and rising at an early hour is known to make a person feel well-rested and refreshed, ready to take on the rest of the day. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teenagers aged 13 to18 years sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours.
5. Get Help
Talk to people you look up to – say a good friend, or a senior family member or your mentor, in whom you can confide in, and share your inhibitions, apprehensions, and fears. Alternatively, you can also connect with a psychotherapist, a psychologist, or other mental health professionals, who can help you sort out and work through your feelings, thoughts, and emotions that cause or worsen anxiety. In all, make sure that you do not think you are alone in your battles, and in thinking so, stay aloof, alienated, and away from others.
6. Start Early
It is always a good idea to start preparing for your exam well ahead of time, instead of cramming your studying all at once, right towards the end. The more you procrastinate, the more your anxiety levels are bound to increase as the exam date approaches. So, know your exam schedule and prepare your study timeline that begins from day 1.
7. Establish a Routine
Based on past experiences and observations, understand and learn what works for you in your studies and establish a routine based on that. Prepare a checklist or a flowchart of action items and dos and don’ts, and follow the same steps each time you prepare to take a test. This will reduce your stress and help you to be well-prepared for any exam.
8. Become Productive
Make every day count. Find out useless things that take up your time and energy and replace them with useful and productive – ones that will help you study better, stay focused and help reduce your anxiety.
9. Study Efficiently
Try and speak with the toppers in your class and ask them for study tips and advice. Explore resources that can help you sharpen your study skills and better your study techniques, along with test-taking strategies. Make a note of your weak areas and key focus areas to prepare a thorough study plan to address them. Overall systematic studying, a practical study schedule, and effective study and practice material will translate to lower anxiety levels.
10. Talk to Teachers
Try to reach out to your teachers to understand what will be on each test and seek their advice and suggestions on how to prepare for it well. Also, let your teacher know that you feel anxious when you have to prepare for a test or have to take one, and obtain their opinions and ideas on dealing with it.
Exam anxiety affects many people, whether or not they are primary or secondary school students, college students, or employees who need to take exams for progress or certification. But through a few changes in your life, along with some positivity and focus, it can be relatively easy to overcome your fears, nervousness, and anxiety when having to prepare for an exam or take one.
At Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we support students in many ways, including providing all information about exams at the graduate level. Apart from these tips, we hope that our financial aid pages and other graduate school resources can reduce anxiety for students.
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