How to beat exam stress this December

The exam season has finally arrived, and thousands of students at the University of Edinburgh are drowning in caffeine shots to cope with lecture notes and readings they feel they have no time to absorb. If you belong to this group, do not panic. Exam stress affects the majority of students worldwide, and this university offers help, workshops, guides and activities for you to be as successful as you can during the coming December diet.

When identifying the symptoms of stress, Jenny Leeder, Assistant Director of the University Counselling Service, divides them into three categories: physical, emotional and cognitive. While the physical ones are the easiest to recognise, having to do with stress hormones being released into the body and galvanising the person, they include sweaty palms, hart racing, headaches or tight shoulders. The emotional symptoms have to do with negative feelings, being hopeless and depressed, while the cognitive have to do with concentration and “getting into black or white thinking,” Leeder told The Student. Behaviour can be affected as well, and if you feel your eating habits changed, your sleep is affected or you have stopped talking to friends, it might be that you are suffering from exam stress.

What to do next? The basics are healthy eating and exercise. “Even if you feel sick, have something [to eat] to settle your stomach, a long lasting energy food,” expressed Jenny. This way, nutritious things are better than junk food, which will only give you an energy shock. Regarding exercise, if you have established a regular routine throughout the year, make sure you keep it going. If you haven’t, a couple of minutes of fresh air will do. Get out of the library and walk ten minutes around the Meadows to distract yourself. If you are feeling panicky before the exam, relaxing your body will help relax your mind. Take deep breaths and breathe out slowly, something that proves to be effective.

Jenny understands that “when you are feeling stressed, the last thing you want to do is research on stress, especially if you are working towards a deadline”. This is why being aware of the services the University provides well in advance can help. EUSA is back this year with ‘paws against stress’. They offer 15 minutes sessions to pet a puppy, with tickets being available two days before each event. This will take place on Thursday December 3rd, and Monday December 7th, 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the Chaplaincy in Potterow.

The Institute for Academic Development offers appointments and workshops related to academic performance. The University Student Counselling Service offers individual sessions and workshops, the next ones being titled ‘Exam Success’ and ‘Under Pressure’ on Wednesday December 2nd and Thursday 3rd respectively. They also offer self-help e-books, and these include ‘Stress: A Short Guide for Students’ and ‘A Step by Step Guide to Exam Success’, which can be found online through a quick search in www.ed.ac.uk. The Sports Union offers Stressbuster events, with tester sessions to relax your body, so make sure you check their website regularly too. If you feel anxious at night and you don’t know who to talk to, Nightline is a confidential service from 8 pm to 8 am, reached by calling 0131 557 4444.

If you tried these and still feel overwhelmed, you might need some extra help. “If a student feels that they are following all the recommended guidelines and they are still feeling that they are not coping, they can visit the Student Counselling Service,” asserts Jenny. She also assures that you don’t have to commit to all the sessions, and just an initial one can help to get to the bottom of what’s really troubling a student.

“For me is about students sort of finding what works for them best, some people like to be very quiet when they revise, while some people like to work in company,” Jenny claims. It is all about finding the perfect time and place, and not pushing yourself too much. Remember to be reasonable and look after yourself. It might feel like it’s the only option and the best in the short term, but pushing too hard might be negative in the future. Good luck!

 Image: Paula Blanco

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