World Mental Health Day 2022: Exam anxiety is quite common and can range from mild anxiety to debilitating anxiety affecting performance, mental health and well-being. Contrary to what most of us think, exam anxiety can be experienced by students of all ages.
According to the recent NCERT National Survey, 81 per cent of the students surveyed reported facing anxiety due to studies, exams and results. While experiencing some amount of stress, often referred to as ‘eustress’, can help you perform better, for some children, it can be so overwhelming that it affects performance and their overall mental health.
Some common symptoms of exam anxiety include difficulty sleeping, irritability, mood swings, poor appetite or easy eating, excessive coffee consumption, smoking or drinking alcohol. Physical symptoms may also include nervousness, sweating, chest pain, headache, vomiting, etc. Students suffer from extreme anxiety before the declaration of results, especially when there are high expectations, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and withdrawal.
If you are a student, remember that you can develop resilience by recognizing your inner strengths and abilities to cope and move through life’s everyday stresses and enhance your overall well-being. Here are things to keep in mind:
1. Start early: Set your goals, make a plan and believe you have the ability to achieve them
Everyone may have told you to create a study schedule, but planning should start early. This should include time for study and revision. Setting your long-term goal is essential, but equally important is breaking it down into short-term goals – achievable steps that give you a sense of accomplishment. The other thing to remember is that goals must be SMART – they must be attainable and timely. So, when to start preparing, when to do self-study, make time for it, making sure that you set aside time for revision. Prepare highlighted notes. If, for some reason, you have limited time for preparation, then change your goals and plans- Be aware of the marking scheme, start with the required chapters, and Prioritize your vital concepts.
Simulate taking the test in the expected conditions on the last day. Familiarity creates self-assurance; hence “Mock Tests” boost confidence and reduce uncertainty and anxiety. Discover your most effective study routine, and stick to it every time you prepare for an exam. Avoid studying for two to four hours before the exam, as last-minute bursts can add to the anxiety and may also leave your mind blank during the exam.
As you schedule your studies, it’s important to schedule breaks. Studying continuously for seven days a week can lead to burnout before exams.
2. Familiarize Your Way Through Anxiety: Anticipate It and Find Ways to Manage Your Emotions
As you approach D-Day, exam-induced anxiety often builds up. It’s helpful to be aware of your feelings and find ways to deal with complicated emotions so they don’t overwhelm you and interfere with your goals.
One helpful tip is to divide the time. If you find it difficult to let go of worrying thoughts while you study, set aside a ‘worry time. Whenever worrying thoughts come to your mind while studying, tell yourself that you will postpone them for a ‘worrying time’. This way, you maximize your study time and focus on accomplishing your goals.
Another way is to identify what makes you feel good and do it when you’re feeling overwhelmed – take a break to listen to music, play sports, or take a walk. Remember, while it is normal to experience difficult emotions during any stressful time, it is essential that you recognize them and practice healthy ways to manage them.
3. Meditate and Practice Being Calm
Discover ways to calm your mind and body. Some practical techniques are performing relaxation techniques, such as taking deep and timely breaths, relaxing your muscles, and visualizing a positive outcome. Mindfulness practice is beneficial for dealing with anxiety.
Learn to control your negative thoughts: Often, exam anxiety is associated with negative reviews of failing, low marks, etc. Instead of letting yourself fall, think about your strengths. Know that there is strength within you that can help you in your exams. For example, you might identify perseverance, power or creativity as your strength. Close your eyes and think about how your top strength can help you in the exam.
4. Focus on proper nutrition and sleep
Mental health affects our physical health: How we feel affects what we do. Anxiety can make us eat and sleep a lot or not at all. Eating regular, balanced meals and drinking plenty of water ensures constant energy and hydration. Avoid drinking soda/sugar or caffeinated/energy drinks, which can increase anxiety. Try to maintain a regular exercise routine. Adequate and consistent sleep enhances cognition, memory and success in the classroom.
5. Talk About It: Identify Your Supportive Network
Often we shy away from sharing. A simple trick is to find out who the people in your support network are. Talking to someone and sharing your feelings with parents, peers, and teachers is essential: it takes the pressure off your mind and makes room for pleasant thoughts. Peer support will help us to set goals together, revise, do mock tests together and encourage each other.
But remember, if you’ve tried to manage your anxiety on your own and with support from adults or peers but still haven’t been able to deal with it, talking to a counsellor or psychologist may help.
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