Dealing With Exam Stress
How to manage exam stress.
Many students find exams stressful, which is understandable, as your performance in exams can determine important things including what pathways or courses are open to you next year or whether you will have to repeat the year. Your exam results can also affect how you feel about yourself and your capabilities, and you may worry about letting your parents or other loved ones down. In other words, the stakes are high, and this can cause a certain amount of stress and anxiety.
What is stress?
The stress response is a physiological response to an event that your ‘primitive’ self perceives as a threat. It responds to these ‘threats’ by activating the nervous system and specific hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones speed up your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism which prepare your body to react quickly and handle the pressure of the moment. This prepares you for ‘fight or flight’ – whereby you either face the threat directly or run.
A certain amount of stress can be healthy: it can help you cope in real emergencies or difficult situations, overcome challenges and achieve your goals. However, long term stress can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing. Intense stress can interfere with your exam performance, as your ‘thinking’ brain is effectively hijacked by the more primitive ‘reptilian’ brain, making it difficult for you to recall and express what you need to.
How to cope with exam stress
Exam stress is almost inevitable but there are ways of reducing the amount of pressure you are under and being able to deal with it.
If you feel as though your stress is unmanageable, it may be helpful to speak to someone. Parents, teachers, a school counsellor or a youth worker are people who may be able to help you cope.
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