How To Handle The Stress Of Competitive Exams And Channel It Right?

 Competitive exams are often held in extremely high regard, with some claiming that the country has the most difficult government service and college entrance tests in the world.

Clearing these exams is often the only hope for students from lower-income and middle-class families. This pressure only adds to the difficulty of the examination itself.

India sees a surge in mental health disorders among the younger population every year during the competitive exam season. Many students find it tough to cope with the stress, anxiety, and the burden of needing to do well.

However, the stress does not have to get to a student, and they do not have to sacrifice all their time just to of exam prep.

Here is a list of things that an exam-taker can implement in their life to not only combat stress but also bring home excellent marks. Some of these are scientific too!

Differentiating “worrying” from anxiety and stress

When confronted with a difficult situation, it is natural to feel stressed. "Stress" is essentially our body preparing us to face a challenge. It can boost our attention, focus, energy, and determination by increasing oxygen flow to the brain.

Exam stress levels in young individuals can largely be regarded as "worrying."

According to research, people who are open about their emotions are more likely to thrive on this stress, which they may exploit to achieve their goals and objectives and find fulfillment at work.

However, high levels of exam stress might interfere with concentration and impair memory, resulting in poor performance. Moreover, anxiety and stress during youth might also pave the way for mental-health issues later in life. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize these emotions and name them to get the help you need.

8 proven stress management techniques

Now that you have named your emotions and acknowledged the stress, it is time to employ techniques to help manage these feelings. Given the competition today, it is vital to practice self-care and introduce small ways that can help combat the stress of the study prep and the exam itself. 

Here are 8 highly effective ways you can try out to do so:

1.    Take timely breaks

One cannot stress the importance of taking timely breaks enough. In a world that encourages overworking and a constant need to wear oneself out, it is vital to take note of the fact that mental exhaustion manifests as physical exhaustion. 

Taking breaks away from one's place of study allows them to refresh and rejuvenate their minds. Going for a walk, eating a nourishing meal, napping, or even getting in touch with a loved one are all excellent ways to take time off from your study schedule. 

Did you know taking a break for exactly 17 minutes after a 52-minute work session allows one to return to work with more focus?

2.    Introduce physical exercise to the routine

One of the most commonly advised coping techniques by healthcare providers is physical exercise. Long study hours, poor diet, and a high level of stress can all hurt one's health. It might also make one feel sluggish and weak. 

It is strongly advised that students engage in simple exercise at home to keep healthy and active. Exercise reduces the body’s cortisol levels (stress hormone) and bumps up the endorphin (happy hormones) production.

Something as little as a thirty-minute brisk walk in the neighborhood or a quick meditation session can contribute to a much healthier mind.

3.    Surround yourself with the right people

It matters who one surrounds oneself with, for it profoundly impacts their thought processes. One should avoid all acquaintances and family members that make them feel tense by comparing them to others. 

Having a solid support system might help one cope with the stress that comes with test preparation. Knowing that our parents, friends, and mentors are encouraging offers us an extra incentive to work harder to achieve our goals.

Furthermore, one should not compare their performance to that of others. No two people fare the same way, and it is essential always to remember that.

4.    Take on hobbies and indulge in them

Hobbies are ideal practice for relieving stress while expanding one's skill set. Moreover, they may offer a beautiful artistic touch to one's résumé, whether it's singing, dancing, writing, or reading.

Doodling, drawing, and painting are excellent stress relievers for art enthusiasts. One may expand this interest by enrolling in weekly or bi-weekly lessons to hone those talents which will also serve as a good break away for studying.

The joy derived from engaging in a short-term pastime or creating little pieces of art builds confidence. This, in turn, helps when you sit down to resume your studies.

5.    Follow a timely schedule 

When preparing for a big event such as a competitive exam, an oft-repeated phrase is to always stick to a timely schedule. This is because many students forego essential and fundamental daily activities to ramp up their pace of study. 

It is, therefore, always best to start ahead of time by drawing out a plan of how one wants to study. Determining how much time one wants to give to a particular subject can help build a solid and consistent timetable. 

Include meal times, breaks, and adequate sleep into the routine. 

Additionally, if you cannot handle the routine, you previously created for too long, switch it up a little. Study a different subject or study at another time.

6.    Try these scientific methods and improve productivity

Studying for long durations can be exhausting and can result in poor retention and can massively decrease overall productivity. So here are a few scientific methods that can help enhance productivity while also helping with memory retention:

·      The Pomodoro method

An incredibly effective study method, the Pomodoro technique entails studying in 25-minute intervals, also called a "Pomodoro," with five-minute breaks in between. Post the fourth Pomodoro, one can take a longer 20 or 30-minute break and start the cycle back again.

·      Classical Conditioning

As with Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning experiment, if a person studies the same topic or subject at the very same time and location, the brain forms a connection and is trained appropriately. Over time, simply watching the clock will automatically put one in the mindset to study the subject.

7.    Leveraging the stress

We have looked at every way we could try and avoid stress, but what if we used it to our benefit instead? As stated before, a certain amount of stress can significantly boost productivity. 

So, here's how to leverage it:

·      Identify the stress differently

One can begin to read a stress reaction as a mechanism to help prepare for the upcoming challenge.

Exams should be framed as a challenge rather than a threat. They are perceived as a danger in part because one's entire future, identity, and value can appear to be riding on it. However, even competitive exams are a minor aspect of life that does not determine one's entire future.

·      Come to terms with the negative feelings

Some frequent approaches to stress include attempting to relax, ignoring it, and trying to lessen it. These methods perpetuate the belief that stress is "bad" rather than acknowledging it as a natural, beneficial reaction. They also result in decreased performance and emotional fatigue.

Rather than dismissing the emotions, experiencing them, accepting them, and using them to one's benefit is much healthier. Try to repeat affirmations such as "this is important to me, which is why I feel this way."

·      Diversify your learning methods

Study using various methods, and give yourself ample time to implement these concepts. Some options of diverse study methods can include:

·      Reading a topic and writing in one's own words.

·      Discussing the topics and participating in group conversations.

·      Sketching the ideas or making flowcharts.

·      Understanding complicated topics using YouTube or other video-sharing platforms.

8.    Seek Professional Help 

There is no shame in addressing the fact that an individual may require professional help in the form of counseling or even group therapy. 

Everyone is unique, and drawing up an effective mental healthcare plan through therapy and counseling can significantly aid in managing stress and anxiety. It also helps to talk about stress and look at it from a unique lens. 

Further, seeking professional help can assist you in looking at the exam more realistically instead of placing a “life-or-death” meaning on it.

 Final words

Competitive exams are a significant event in one's life but avoiding breaks and leisure can take a toll on one's mental health. Further, adding some physical exercise and hobbies into an optimal schedule can contribute to better physical and emotional health.

However, in many cases, this stress can be impossible to avoid. In such a circumstance, one can make the stress work for them instead. 

Additionally, seeking therapy or counseling can prove to be highly advantageous in helping one understand themselves and the source of the constant stress. It might also help to remember that the exam will not be the end of the world regardless of the outcome. 

So, go on and give your best to it. As they say, aim for the moon, and you'll land somewhere among the stars!