It is normal for students at college or university to feel anxious and stressed during examinations. Often, students either set high expectations for themselves or hope to fulfil those set by parents.
These examinations will dictate their career paths — especially those giving their final-year papers – all of which heightens the stress and anxiety levels to a great extent. Though such expectations and goals are helpful, they mustn’t push reality.
Stress in moderate amounts is beneficial because it helps an individual channel their energy. When acute stress is experienced for a prolonged period, it is a cause for concern.
Experiencing high levels of stress can affect concentration levels, increase blood pressure, increase the chances of cardiac issues and can lead to mental health problems.
College and university students are in a unique phase in their lives when they begin undertaking other responsibilities in addition to their studies; unlike adolescents in school who are cared for by both parents and teachers.
These added responsibilities and jam-packed schedules require constant attention, and mental and physical health takes a back seat. This highlights the importance of having a proper self-care routine as it is essential in combating stress and improves concentration.
Most students tend to stay awake all night while preparing for examinations. However, this is extremely detrimental to their health and performance. High levels of anticipatory anxiety can affect performance.
For instance, some students are unable to recall concepts during their examinations. How can students mitigate the onset and effects of examination stress and anxiety? Here are a few guidelines that may help:
A good night’s sleep: Sleep helps recharge the mind and the body, providing us with the energy we need to face the day. Although the amount of sleep required varies from person to person, young adults need at least six to seven hours. Regular sleeping patterns will help a person maintain concentration levels, regulate their mood and appetite, improve their immune system and memory.
To deal with irregular sleeping patterns, take a nice warm water bath or shower in the evening to help relax muscles. Avoid using screens for at least an hour before bed. Use an appropriate blanket that will allow the body to regulate its temperature. Dim the lights in your bedroom an hour or two prior to getting into bed. Eat dinner at least three hours before going to sleep. Avoid going to bed on an empty stomach. Avoid caffeine during late afternoons and evenings.
Maintain a healthy diet: College and university students often have the tendency to eat comfort foods and gorge on fast foods to save on both time and money, especially during the exam time. Avoid junk and processed food because they cause lethargy, exhaustion, and weight gain over time.
Incorporate healthy food in diets such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Maintain a schedule and eat accordingly with regular intervals between meals.
Staying hydrated is also extremely important. At least six to eight glasses of water a day are essential in helping one feel refreshed and to avoid bloating. It is also important to limit the intake of caffeine.
Regular physical activity and exercise is important. Physical activity and exercise are great ways to improve circulation and regulate breathing. It increases levels of oxygen which will improve brain functioning, calms the nervous system, cleanses the lungs and facilitates quality sleep.
Keep room and study area clean: Having a cluttered space will negatively impact focus and concentration. Remove any unnecessary items that cause distraction such as phones and create a space that is meant for the sole purpose of studying.
Take breaks: A small break every few hours will make it easier to concentrate and will also aid your memory. Meditating during these breaks is beneficial because it will help regulate breathing which in turn will reduce any anxious feelings and let you concentrate better. Even 15 minutes of meditation can have a relaxing effect on the mind and body.
Communication: Communicate with friends and family. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, remember that you are not alone. There are people who love you and want to support you. Although examinations are an important part of every student’s life and are meant to test one’s understanding and grasp on concepts, they are not a stepping stone to career goals or proof of anyone’s worth.
Life gives all of us ample opportunities to better ourselves and understand what we wish to pursue. It is therefore imperative to avoid any undue stress and focus more on learning and understanding. Wishing all those who are taking the examinations this year, the very best!
(The writer is chairperson, board of trustees, Live Love Laugh Foundation)