How to overcome exam anxiety and stay focused

How to overcome exam anxiety and stay focused

Anxiety is a natural response to high-pressure situations, like exams. A little stress, in fact, is useful for performance as it can drive you to do your best. However, anxiety can be debilitating, and too much can worsen it. This is why we’ve collected ways and tips to lessen exam anxiety, particularly if you go to one of these most stressful universities in the UK

Familiarity

How to overcome exam anxiety and stay focused
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Knowing your most efficient methods for studying is key to easing anxiety. Take some time to learn how you best perform, through mock tests and situations, using different methods of revision. For the real thing, use methods right for you as reverting to good familiarity can ease your mental space. If possible, study consistently in a similar environment to the one you’d take your exam. Not only will your anxiety be less likely to heighten, but the mind will find it easier to recall relevant information. Establishing a consistent routine pre and post-tests is also important, as it will ease your stress level.

Preparation

How to overcome exam anxiety and stay focused
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Starting revision earlier, and in smaller increments is more beneficial for most people. This is because it eases the pressure closer to the exam. Create a timetable or plan, allowing for flexibility so that there is not too much stress in the day to day leading up to your exams. Check out our top picks for planners and journals to help you stay organised. 

Likewise, you need to make sure you have scheduled time for proper breaks, allowing you to relax under the pressure throughout the day. Creating a plan for exams is also beneficial. Give yourself time on the day to get to your exam hall early. Make sure you have time to do something relaxing as well. This will help ease the post-exam anxiety that can arise.

Therapy, Communication and Medical Help

How to overcome exam anxiety and stay focused
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If you are concerned that you can’t manage your anxiety alone, reach out for help. If possible, seek advice from a licensed individual to work together to create processes and mechanisms to ease your anxiety. Simply expressing your concerns can also help alleviate them to an extent. If you can’t access therapy, reach out to your friends and family, or a helpline: many institutions also offer counselling services. Here’s a list of some places you can get mental health advice in the UK.  Talking and working through your worries with others can help reduce stress. If you have conditions like ADHD, insomnia or dyslexia that affect your learning and exam performance, make sure you reach out to your testing institution beforehand to have contingencies, like extra time, put in place. Also, ensure you are taking any medication. Do speak to your doctor if you think this should be adjusted to revise and partake in exams in a healthier capacity. 

Rest 

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Getting sleep is key to a more productive day, so try and maintain a healthy schedule surrounding your exams. Of course, it is easy to fall into bad habits, and anxiety can often disrupt sleep. However, if this is a common cause, don’t be afraid of seeking medical help. As mentioned above, therapy can help reduce the effects of anxiety, and contacting your GP if it seems to be a bigger problem, like insomnia, is also important. Sleep is also needed for your general health, as the body is less likely to go into stress mode when it is healthy and well-rested. A full night’s sleep before an exam rather than a last-minute cram can also ease exam day anxiety, as it ensures you are fully rested and therefore in a calmer state of mind.

Relaxation

How to overcome exam anxiety and stay focused
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Relaxation techniques are also important. This could be practising a deeper breathing pattern to calm yourself in the moment, or having a distraction technique, like running through the alphabet with animal names. Also try to incorporate a relaxing activity, like reading, walking, meeting or talking to friends or watching tv throughout your revision and exam period. Establish breaks for this purpose, around revision and post exams. 

Exercise and Health

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Exercising regularly has its obvious health benefits, but around exam season it can also work to decrease your anxiety. The Mayo Clinic has advised that regular aerobic exercise, and exercise on the day of your exams can help release tension. Maintaining a healthy diet can also ease stress as your body and mind need the energy to function. The Mayo Clinic has also advised that increased sugar and caffeine content can cause an increase in anxiety, due to the fluctuation in energy it brings. 

Let us know in the comments if you find this list useful! For tips on passing exams read more here, and if you’re worried about incorporating exams with Ramadan, check out this article.

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