We wish our learners all the best as they begin with their much anticipated June Exams. We all know that it is exam time and exams come with a lot of anxiety: Am I prepared enough? What will be on the exam? Will I do well in my exam? We at Mathews Phosa College are aware of the stress and anxiety that comes with preparing for and writing exams. We have, therefore, prepared some tips and strategies to help you cope better during the exam period. The aim and purpose of this communique are to provide some practical advice on examination preparation. Symptoms of exam stressExam stress can manifest itself in different ways depending on the individual and the type of exams they are preparing for. The most common symptoms include the following:
- A feeling of despair, anxiety or worry
- A feeling that you will never be able to get through enough work or preparation before the exam
- An inability to concentrate or to think clearly
- An inability to sleep because your mind is racing
- An inability to relax because you feel guilty that you are not workingMigraines or headaches
- Prolonged tiredness
- Increased heart rate or a feeling of panic, perhaps even leading to a panic attack(Strydom et al., 2012)
Contribute to overcoming stress and anxiety during the exam period
1. Make time for sleep
The most important thing is to remember to plan time for sleep. When you have to get up at a certain time, count back the number of hours you want to sleep and then add half an hour. This time becomes the scheduled time to switch the lights out. The extra half an hour is important-we often forget about the time it takes to brush teeth, set the alarm clock, and so on.
2. Watch what you eat and when
Eating late meals because you have been studying all day will alter your internal clock and impair sleep. Although you should try not to go to bed hungry, try to have a big dinner before 19:00 and then a smaller snack in the evening if you are still hungry. It’s thought that certain foods help sleep: turkey, milk, bananas and walnuts all contain tryptophan, which the body uses to make melatonin(which serves as the immune system strengthener).
3. Limit caffeinated drinks
Although the impact of caffeine varies from person to person, try avoiding all sources of caffeine from 15:00 and adjust if needed. Remember caffeine isn’t just in coffee–it’s also in things like tea, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
4. Don’t use your phone in bed
Electronic devices produce noise and light; both will stop you sleeping. LCD screens on phones and tablets produce light that is blue-enriched. This light influences the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and delays the release of the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Without melatonin, although you can sleep, the sleep you achieve will be light and non-refreshing. Light can also make you feel more alert, again training the brain to perceive the bed as a place of cognitive arousal.
5. Have a bedtime routine
Doing exercise is a great way to relax during the exam period, as it causes the release of endorphins and improves your mood. However, the endorphins released from exercise can also impair sleep. As such, try to avoid exercising within two hours of bedtime. Instead, use those few hours to create a relaxing bedtime routine–perhaps by having a bath with lavender oil, or sitting and reading a book.
6. Clear your head before bed
There’s some truth in the old saying that taking a problem to bed means you wake up with the solution but don’t let the problem keep you awake. Sitting and ruminating over thoughts of the day will keep the brain active, so try keeping a notebook by your bed to write thoughts down before sleep instead. Meditation and breathing exercises can also help. If you can’t drop off, don’t stay in bed trying to force yourself to sleep. Instead, employ the 15-minute rule: if you can’t sleep after what feels like 15 minutes, get up, leave the bedroom, and read or relax somewhere else. Only return to the room when you feel sleepy again.