Overcoming Test Prep Stress and Anxiety

It's inevitable that final exams will stress you out -- learn how to deal with it.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

April 20, 2016

Overcoming Test Prep Stress and Anxiety

Let’s get one thing out of the way: stress is a fact of life. Everyone, no matter how laid back they appear, experiences stress. It can manifest itself in physical, mental and/or emotional symptoms. However, stress can be completely manageable.

This finals season, don’t let stress control you. First, prepare for your final exams in a timely manner; and secondly, recognize and deal with stress responsibly.

Signs That You’re Stressed

First, it’s important to identify the signs and symptoms of stress. For some of you, that may sound like a no-brainer; but believe it or not, there are those who don’t know they’re actually stressed until the signs are physical. According to the Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth University, physical signs of stress include increased heart rate and blood pressure, feelings of tenseness and irritability, fatigue and/or depression. Students may also experience a lack of interest and ability to concentrate, which can be detrimental to the studying process.

How to Cope

Managing your stress is the key to controlling it. After you’ve recognized the signs, it’s time to respond. If you’ve been studying non-stop, reward yourself with some time away from your studies in the form of a nap, a coffee date with a friend, a quick massage or workout. Oftentimes, colleges and universities build in stress-relieving activities during finals times, like bringing puppies to campus to love and cuddle on for a few hours one afternoon. It’s important NOT to turn to tobacco, drugs and alcohol when you’re stressed. These avoidance behaviors can only increase the amount of stress you’re trying to overcome.

Second, get plenty of sleep and eat healthy. These simple “tasks” can do wonders for your stress levels. Overindulging in sweets may make you stress more about your appearance, adding to the weight you’re already carrying. Losing sleep, at the same time, will leave you feeling lethargic and just generally unprepared.

Third, incorporate relaxation techniques into your studying and testing time. Download a meditation app or pick a song or two that calms or motivates you. During your study periods or tests, implement these techniques when you feel overwhelmed.

Finally, acknowledge your weaknesses and your strengths. There will be some piece of information, theory or problem that you struggle with, and you need to accept that. Don’t think of it as a defeat; just think of it as an obstacle you have to overcome. Enlist help from your professor, TA or another student in the class who seems to get it. Asking for help will definitely yield better results than stressing about that which doesn’t come easily to you.

Reward Yourself

Last, but certainly not least, set aside a reward for yourself after the final exam. Having something exciting to look forward to will provide the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” When you’re feeling stressed, you can focus on that light instead. Plus, it will help you realize that your stress is only temporary; eventually, it will all be over.

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