Stress is never a great thing to have to deal with and unfortunately, during your finals, you will have to manage quite a lot of it.
The constant pressure to excel at school and get good grades only increases in intensity as we get closer and closer to those all-important final exams. It’s only natural to feel a bit anxious going into your exams as they are such an important factor in our lives, but too much stress and anxiety can affect your grades in a bad way. Remember, a little pressure can be a good thing, but too much can send you spiralling. There is no simple fix to avoiding the stress of finals completely, but there are ways you can calm yourself and prepare better so that you don’t get overwhelmed. If you want to know how to deal with the stress of your exams and do well, here are some pointers that can help!
Time management is key
It’s easy to work up some stress when you’ve got piles of schoolwork to get through in a very short period. Thankfully, with a little time management and some organization, you can get in some good study time without feeling overloaded with work. Planning ahead will save you so much stress!
Creating a study schedule or calendar can help you manage your subjects better so you can get in the right amount of studying for each class. That way, you won’t forget or neglect a certain subject. Schedules are great for those who either procrastinate or can’t get a hold of their time management, so if you usually spend all night chugging energy drinks and cramming study notes, this might be a good time to invest in a schedule!
To help with your time management, keep all your notes separated by subjects as this will save you some time having to shuffle through mountains of notes to find the ones you’re after. Along with your study schedule and notes, make a daily or weekly list of your tasks so that you can see them clearly. A list is good for those who get sidetracked easily and is great for boosting morale as each task you cross off feels like a weight lifted off your shoulders - be sure to list your tasks in order of importance so you don’t miss any deadlines!
Make rest a priority
You may think the more time spent studying the better you’ll do on your exams, but that’s not necessarily true. You perform better when you’re feeling fresh—it’s a fact!
If you’ve ever spent hours upon hours revising non-stop, then you’ll know how fatigued you can feel. Your eyes can start to ache and sometimes your brain just refuses to take in new information—these are classic burn-out symptoms.
Researchers from Baylor University published a study whose results suggested that those who sleep for up to 8 hours a night do better in their final exams compared to those who don’t sleep as much. Sleep helps to store recent information and primes the brain ready for new memories when you wake up. By this account, if you spend the day studying, you’ll remember more if you get a good night's rest than if you were to stay up late studying some more.
Your brain is like a sponge in the sense that it can retain a lot of information, but it will still reach a certain point where you can no longer take in any more. When you hit your information limit, you should stop. Trying to fight through your limit will do you no favors. It may even make you more tired. Instead, sleep it out and try again the next day when your brain has had time to freshen up and reload ready for another day of learning!
Make time for your hobbies
You may feel like studying is your only option at the moment, but that’s not going to help ease your stress. We know how important your final exams are, but that shouldn’t mean you have to forfeit your mental health or your hobbies!
If you stick to a studying schedule, you should have some allocated free time during your day to break up your study sessions. These little breaks are when you can let loose and have a bit of me-time. We promise it won’t hurt your grades!
If you’re worried that you’ll accidentally procrastinate—we’ve all taken a “15-minute break” that turned into a 3-hour break—you can set yourself targets to hit before you allow yourself a break. That way your break is like a reward.
As long as you stick to your time limits and don’t go overboard, study breaks can effectively boost your mood without harming your grades. You don’t need to have a set hobby either; it’s perfectly fine to spend your time out sitting with friends or watching a movie as long as whatever you choose is something that makes you happy!
Don’t neglect physical activity
Exercise plays a huge role in relieving stress. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that help to neutralize stress hormones and boost your mood. If you’ve ever felt energized and invigorated after a good workout, you’ve experienced the magic of endorphins! Along with feeling pumped, you also get a feeling of accomplishment which is a great feeling to have to go into your final exams.
It doesn’t matter what exercise you decide on—you can take a stroll in the park or you could burn off some major anxiety with a HIIT session—as long as you’re getting moving, you’ll feel the benefits.
If you can, try to exercise in the fresh air. Studying indoors can get stuffy and can strain your eyes if you’re in a dark room. Fresh air is also said to help clear your head, which is much needed if you’re consumed with studying. As we all know, a fresh set of eyes will work better than tired ones!
Talk to someone
Sometimes, there’s no better feeling than letting it all out. If you feel overwhelmed with stress and it’s getting you down or affecting your wellbeing, you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Whether you want to try some self-talk, vent to a friend, or confide in an adult, talking in any form will make you feel better. Self-talk is the process of boosting your confidence through positive reinforcement with the idea that if you think good thoughts, good things will happen! Although this form of talk won’t help you vent, it will help you reframe a negative headspace.
Friends, family, and teachers are good people to talk to if you’re feeling particularly stressed about exams, as they’ve all been in your situation, too. If you’re not too keen on familiar faces hearing your thoughts and feelings, you could see a counselor instead.
A Word from A Brighter Day
As you move through middle school, high school, and into college, it may be worth doing some studying about studying.
Here are some easy books to get started on developing efficient study skills:
Finally, remember that you are not defined by your grades. Of course, we all should work hard to get the grades to make it to college. But even when you pulled that all-nighter and didn’t do as well as you wanted to, it’s okay. Academic achievement isn't everything in life. True lessons come from struggle, so keep striving and you’ll get to your destination soon enough.