How to manage exam stress
We know it is still early, but we thought that it is important for both parents and students to know how to manage the stress prior and during the exam period, before it builds to a dangerous level.
Recently we interviewed Dr Wong Mun Loke (Deputy Director, Youth Health Programme Development 1, Health Promotion Board) on examination stress management techniques. He shared some very useful advice on how students can manage exam related stress. Read on to find out more.
Students tend to feel highly stressed during exam period. What are the symptoms of stress overload during this time?
Dr Wong Mun Loke: Stress is the body’s response to any physical or emotional changes in life. Positive stress can trigger excitement in our lives and cause our bodies to produce chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. These can, in turn, motivate us to overcome our obstacles and achieve our goals. However, when stress becomes excessive, it can turn into distress and negatively affect us. Living under stressful conditions for a significant period of time can harm your health, relationships, lifestyle, and overall quality of life.
How will a student know if he/she is too stressed?
Dr Wong Mun Loke: You know you are too stressed when you: (1) cannot sleep through the night; (2) are always feeling tired and eating significantly less than before; (3) have frequent headaches; (4) are irritable and anxious and (5) lose interest in your usual activities and hobbies.
How should students manage/cope with their stress level the right way? Any methods?
Dr Wong Mun Loke: There are several ways to manage and cope with stress. They include:
Relaxation helps to improve concentration and the ability to focus. Some simple relaxation techniques include deep breathing exercises and visualization or imagining scenes that are relaxing and peaceful, such as gardens and waterfalls.
Spend "me" time:
Each day, allocate some time for yourself to do the things that you enjoy doing. Whether it is participating in leisure activities, or regular physical activity, it is important to engage in activities that you find most enjoyable and relaxing.
Care for your body:
Consume a healthy and balanced diet. Exercise regularly – 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity everyday for 5 or more days a week. Rest well to help you think and concentrate better.
Planning ahead and drawing up “to-do lists” will help to allocate tasks and prioritize them. However, it is important to be flexible to allow for changes in plans as well as to be realistic about what is achievable, given the time frame, to avoid unnecessary stresses and pressure. Select tasks that are not impossible, like breaking up large tasks into smaller ones, and focus on doing your best.
Talk to someone:
Seeking help from others for problems is not a sign of weakness. Sharing your worries and concerns with your parents, friends or even teachers may help you feel better. If you need a non-judgmental listening ear, try Audible Hearts, an online youth support network. You can post your queries on the site anonymously and a YouthPal will share their insights with you within 36 hours. All postings are kept confidential.
Any other tips that you can provide students on how to keep their mental wellness healthy.
Dr Wong Mun Loke: Think Positive: Things may not be as bad as you think. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones such as “I can do it!” or “I will keep trying” when you think you cannot succeed. Positive thinking can motivate you to overcome difficult situations.
Be aware of your strengths:
When things do not go according to your plan and you feel like your confidence is at its lowest, remind yourself of your strengths and past achievements. Look at temporary setbacks as opportunities for growth.
Surround yourself with supportive people:
Being with people who encourage and motivate you positively can enhance your mental wellness. They can boost your self-esteem and confidence, and support you in different ways as you confront your challenges.