October means one thing for Perth students – the beginning of exam time which usually involves stress, anxiety and tension for many people. But there are ways you can minimise the impact that exam-time stress has on your body and mind. With a conscious effort and the use of a few simple mental health tips, you get through your final exams without worrying yourself into a panic.
In fact, you are more likely to do well on your exams if you practice stress reduction techniques. Stress actually impedes your memory from processing information thoroughly. If you are tense, then you may have trouble recalling what you learned in your history or maths class.
You can calm your mind, even during your exams. These tips can help you to address anxiety, reduce stress and face your exams with more confidence.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness, the practice of purposefully living in the moment, is a very helpful method to reduce stress and improve mental well-being. Working on mindfulness can also help you gain more control over your thoughts, and so can help you to better concentrate during study or exam time. Research has shown that as little as ten minutes a day of mindfulness meditation can improve concentration and boost mental performance.
If you are new to this practice there are many free and paid mindfulness apps you can download. You can choose from something as simple as a mindfulness bell to a full program with guided meditations and relaxation exercises.
2. Make a Study Plan
Are you worried about how you are going to fit in enough time to study, do homework, and have a life? Take a deep breath, get out a pen and paper and make a plan. Feeling like you are in control of a situation and being proactive will reduce your level of stress. Feeling like you are helpless and have no control over your fate is very stressful! Decide what time you can set aside to study and commit to it. Knowing you are doing your best, you can let go of some of that anxiety and tension.
3. Take Quality Breaks
The mind can only focus for so long. You cannot sit down and absorb the laws of physics in a three-hour period. When you make your study plan, include breaks. A useful rule of thumb is to study for 50 to 60 minutes, and then take 20 minutes off.
What should you do during your break to keep your stress levels down and keep a calm, serene mind that is ripe for information gathering? Avoid screen time – this means don’t watch an episode of the X-Factor, check out what your friends are doing on Facebook, or spend your break time furiously playing a round of Call of Duty. Go outside, breathe the fresh air, take a walk or go for a bike ride. Meditate, sip a cup of calming herbal tea, practice yoga. Let your mind relax and recharge during your study break.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
It is tempting to stay up late to cram in a couple of extra hours of studying, but this can make your life more stressful during exam time. When your body is asleep, it has the chance to rebuild and restore itself from all the events of the day. Shorting yourself on sleep is a sure way to stress yourself out during exam week. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night. If you feel tired, then take a thirty minute power nap during the day to rejuvenate yourself, your body and mind.
5. Eat a Supportive Diet
Exam time is one of the most important times to focus on eating a healthy diet. Your mind needs plenty of nutrients to function optimally, just as your body does. Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Try a fresh juice a day with vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant packed foods like dark leafy greens, carrots and beetroot. Opt for whole grains to increase your B vitamin intake – nutrients that are known for promoting calm.
Eggs, fish, and yogurt are other healthy, stress-relieving food choices as they are great sources of key vitamins, as well as healthy proteins and fats to support your brain. Try to avoid coffee as much as possible; high caffeine intake is going to make it more difficult for your body to cope with stress. Choose green tea instead to help your mind stay focused, calm and ready to conquer those exams.
If you’re really struggling with stress, anxiety and even panic at exam time and need to talk to someone, we can help. Our Clinical Psychologists can help you address your fears and teach you coping mechanisms to make exam time less unbearable. Get in touch with us to find out more or book an appointment.