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Navigating exam stress

Navigating exam stress

Deepali Garg, Senior Lecturer

Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh

When exam fever really catches on, it’s normal to feel a buzz of excitement and with it, anxiety.

As a teacher, I’ve seen everything, from nail-biting to all-nighters. But guess what? There are super effective ways to handle this stress and even turn it into something that can boost your performance. So, let’s dive into some tips that will help you conquer exam stress and come out shining.

Stay fit

  • Keeping your body healthy will keep your mind sharp. You can’t expect your brain to run on empty.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial during exam season. Fuel your brain with a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is equally important for maintaining concentration.
  • Regular physical activity, even a short walk, releases endorphins that act as natural stress-busters.
  • Most importantly, getting enough sleep-at least 7-8 hours per night-is vital for memory consolidation and overall mental health.

First things first, let’s talk about stress. Stress isn’t always the bad guy. In fact, a little bit of stress can help you focus and get things done. It’s your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, something important is coming up!” But too much stress can negatively affect both your mind and body. That’s why it’s important to manage it before it starts to manage you.

Get organised

One of the best ways to kick exam stress to the curb is to get organised. Imagine going on a road trip without a map - you’d probably get lost, right?

The same goes for studying. Creating a study schedule that breaks down your subjects into bite-sized pieces can make a world of difference.

Instead of thinking, “I need to study math,” break it down into “I’ll tackle algebra today and geometry tomorrow.”

Realistic goals

Setting realistic goals is crucial. Don’t try to climb Everest in a day.

Break your study sessions into smaller, manageable tasks, like finishing a chapter or solving a set of problems.

This makes studying less daunting and gives you a sense of accomplishment as you check off each task.


Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be your best friends when it comes to managing stress.

Sometimes, your brain just needs a break. Deep breathing exercises can calm your mind and improve focus.

Try inhaling slowly for four counts, holding your breath for four, and exhaling for four.

Repeat a few times and feel the stress melt away.

Practicing meditation for a few minutes each day, whether through guided apps or simple breath awareness, can also help manage stress.

Another useful technique is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and then slowly relaxing each muscle group in the body, promoting physical and mental relaxation.

Study smart

Studying smart can make a huge difference. Engaging with the material actively by summarising information, asking questions, and teaching the content to someone else can reinforce understanding.

Practicing past exam papers familiarises students with the exam format and question types, boosting confidence and improving time management skills.

Talk about it

It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone. Feeling stressed? Talk about it! Sharing your worries can lighten the load.

Seeking support from friends, family, and teachers can provide both comfort and practical help.

Forming study groups with classmates allows for collaborative learning, offering different perspectives and enhancing understanding.

If you’re struggling with a particular subject, don’t hesitate to ask your teacher for clarification or additional resources.

Maintaining a positive mindset can significantly impact stress levels and performance. Using positive affirmations like “I am well-prepared” or “I can handle this” can shift your mindset from doubt to determination. Focusing on the effort rather than just the outcomes is also crucial.

Celebrate small victories

Recognising the hard work you’re putting into your studies, and celebrating small victories along the way, can keep you motivated and reduce the pressure you put on yourself.

Exams are a part of the educational journey, and while they can be stressful, you have the power to manage this stress and turn it into a positive force. 

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