The feelings differ, but we’re all familiar with it: squirming stomach, sweaty palms, irritability. Wearing sweats to class, Tim Horton’s cups clutched in slightly trembling hands.
It’s exam season!
We might as well be paying for stress in our tuitions. It’s an almost constant companion, and varies in severity for every single one of us.
Stress is a completely common and totally natural response to something we find threatening. It’s our body’s way of preparing us to deal with whatever it is that our brains are threatened by. The rush of adrenaline, the bursts of energy. The problem is that the aftermath of the adrenaline (shaky hands, lurching stomach, being unable to sleep) is, in itself, a deterrent to being fully prepared for an exam.
How can we get a good night’s sleep when our brains won’t stop whirring with the information we stuff into it at breakneck speed?
Here are some helpful hints from fellow post-secondary students about how to deal with exam heebie jeebies.
1.) “I read or watch Netflix. I try to distract my brain so that I can go back to the stressful situation with a clear head.” — Sam, Journalism
2.) “Get outside and be active!” — AJ, Health Studies
3.) “Making sure to give myself enough to take breaks makes a huge difference for me!” — Psychology student
4.) “Walking down to the beach and taking a half hour or so to de-pressurize seems to be beneficial. Sometimes just taking a breather and experiencing a change of scenery helps with concentration and reduces feelings of overwhelming or anxiety. Going for walks or even just going downstairs to the living room to talk with my mom or play with the cat for a few minutes gives my brain enough of a break to get back into it immediately after. It’s good to know where to stop too; it’s all well and good to study an entire course worth of material in one night, but sometimes you just cut yourself off when it gets late, de-stress for an hour and get to bed for a good sleep to get back into it the next day. One of my high school teachers once told us that it’s more worthwhile to get a full night’s sleep than to get only 5-6 hours with a couple more hours of studying. I’m living proof of her wisdom. I’ve never regretted getting 8-9 hours of sleep before an exam, regardless of how well I studied the night before.” — IHateSchool, Computer Science
5.) “I like to balance my school/work stress by making plenty of times for my friends and ensuring I still have a good quality of life outside the classroom.” — MKD, Commerce
6.) “In order to not feel stressed or reduce my amount of stress I usually end up planning everything ahead of time. When things are left last minute I tend to panic and get anxious, so taking control and organizing the order of which to do things in (study, clean, plan events, etc.) makes me much calmer.” — Bioethics student
7.) “I usually make sure to make time for exercising each week, sometimes going to the gym and always going to hot yoga in the evenings. Yoga is so perfect for relaxing because it forces you to focus only on your breath and your movements and you are able to escape thinking about school for a little while. I also joined intramural teams last year, which I found really helped me destress each week and were so much fun. I find making time for other things in general really helps my mental health, it’s important not to put school as your one and only commitment because balancing other things really adds to your experience as a student.” — Health Science student
8.) “I find that exercise is a good way to relieve stress. I’ll often go for a run or to the gym before sitting down to study for a big test. It helps calm my mind and prevents pre-exam jitters.” — Earth Sciences student
9.) “Sit in the shower, right underneath the shower head with music blasting in the background. Usually helps me feel better, works better if I have to wash my hair anyways.” — Journalism student
10.) “I attend meditation groups regularly (we have one every Wednesday from 3-4 on campus in the room next to Health and Wellness) , I see my therapist every week, meet with my psychiatrist often, and talk to my closest friends when things are too rough.” — H, English and Philosophy
11.) “SLEEP, WATER, EAT and when studying take breaks to remind myself that really this project, assignment, or exam doesn’t matter THAT much to my life as a whole. And also, doing it doesn’t have to be painful, make it FUN for yourself. — HM, Design
12.) “To reduce my stress, I read a book that I’m really into! I feel that reading books for leisure can help take your mind off of your busy schedule, and be able to slow down and destress.” — V.V., Life Sciences
13.) “What’s most important is to have a balanced life. Make time for friends, family, physical activity, studying and of course straight chilling. If you can, get out of the city too, do it, even if it’s only for a day trip. Writing due dates for assignments and exams on a calendar far in advance helps to visualize the work ahead and make sure you’re not stuck doing 5 projects the same week or day.” — Julianna, Photography
14.) “I usually work on the side to take my mind off things. I also have passion projects that I’m always working on. High stress usually leads me to look for sexual relations as I’m single because of my schedule.” — AD, Journalism
15.) “I usually go for walks and try to mentally go through what I can take care of and be reasonable about what is outside my control. I make lists and maps and visually put in front of me what i need to do and when. I feel calmer when I’m organized and know exactly what i need to do. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and that’s when I just leave everything and spend a few hours reading or listening to music.” — Journalism student
16.) “I love to workout, especially swim to help me reduce stress! This lets my mind relax and focus on something other than all that I work I have yet to start.” — Life Sciences student
17.) “When overwhelmed with responsibilities, I run away, literally. I like to walk around an area that has nothing to do with what I’m stressing about. If I talk to a friend while doing it, even better. Anything to get my mind off of the stressor for a while until I feel like I can face it again.” — Jeff, Computer Science
18.) “I used to think the majority of my school stress came from making too many extra-curricular commitments and leaving my school work until the end of the day when I was too tired to do it. I would use my tiredness as an excuse to procrastinate. Advice people tell me is that I need to learn when to say no and care about myself as much as I care about others. They’d give great suggestions like doing something for yourself — whether that be a hobby like painting, or to relax and watch a movie — as a stress reliever. And while that works for a lot of people, I’ve noticed that I’m more stressed the more I focus on myself and my personal problems. I psych myself out, and find myself looking for ways to procrastinate and distract myself. I’ve realized now that making those extra commitments to different clubs and organizations makes you stick to a schedule. It helps you prioritize. Your mind gets kind of tricked into thinking you have a limited amount of time to do certain things, and you’ll get things done. You’ll also get to help other people, and that helps to make you feel better about yourself. People will tell you that you’re important and that you should stop thinking about others in order to reduce your own stress, but from my experience, sometimes, the best way to fix your own problems is to help someone else.” — P.M., Psychology
19.) “I think socialization is a big part in handling school stress. When you get swamped with schoolwork it’s easy to shut yourself out from the world in your room while you scramble to get work done. However, when you choose to isolate yourself you may be causing yourself more stress. Friends and even family are the ones who are going to help lighten the stress but they can only do that if you keep the lines of communication open.” — M.W., Psychology
By: Sam Seon
Edited by: Alisia Bonnick
Image by: startupstockphotos