Exams: How to stop worrying

Swati Sanyal Tarafdar | Updated on February 14, 2020

No stress: Students should keep aside time for sleep, meals and favourite activities   -  ISTOCK.COM

Examinations can be a breeze. BLink looks at ways students — and their parents — can tackle stress and stay calm during this trying season

The poet may have got it wrong. February, not April, is perhaps the cruellest month. Most schools around the country have their annual examinations in February and March. These are the months when stress levels peak — among students as well as their teachers and parents. But examination stress can be effectively battled. Bengaluru-based NGO White Swan Foundation collaborated with over 650 teachers and mental health experts to come up with a free ebook, Managing Exam Stress. It comes with worksheets to help students assess themselves and find guidance. Here are tips from the ebook and from experts on how to handle exams better, and joyfully.

Prep up: So you woke up late to the exam season. There’s still time to prepare. Experts agree that in most cases, anxiety wells up from a lack of thorough preparation and a fear of failure. Beat both with some smart preparation. “To build on confidence and motivation, focus on what you can do better, and not on what you can’t,” Bengaluru-based consultant psychiatrist Sowmya Krishna tells BLink. Focus on improving.

Change the lens: Students tend to get anxious about examinations because of the myth that equates performances with success. Let exams be the time for adventure, to discover what you know, and where to improve.

Right environment: Like sportspeople take camped training before important events, young students need a favourable environment to help them stay focused and diligent. Radhika S D’Costa, school counsellor at Mallya Aditi International, Bengaluru, stresses that the physical environment has to be free of distraction. “This means no TV, no mobile phone, no electronic gadgets near at hand,” she says. An old-fashioned desk with a chair is the best way of sitting with a straight back during long hours of study. “Slouching robs productivity and makes us lazy,” she points out. Also, while the presence of supportive elders can be useful, those who tend to push their worries on to their offspring do not help.

Achievable goals: Preparing well for anything requires setting goals and devising a path to reach them. Students often get stressed and are demotivated when they set up a huge mound of work in front of them — and without a roadmap to help them clear the hurdles. The experts urge students to classify areas that need brushing up. Set them in bite-sized pieces over a period of time, say 30-minute slots, twice a day over the week, so that every time one’s done, there’s encouragement to go for the next.

Focus on sleep and activities: Students should keep aside time for sleep, meals and favourite activities. Exam time shouldn’t rob them of sports and physical activity or even time for crafts or storybooks. They should time easy and difficult subjects, and favourite and not-so-favourite ones alternately.

Short breaks between study hours: Some can maintain their attention and focus for long hours; some need to breathe in every half an hour. D’Costa suggests that students use the breaks to stretch, hop, run, interact with people, eat, drink, or strum the guitar.

Chalking plans: Take your time to devise a plan, but once you have come up with one, stick to it. This will help ensure that you don’t waste time and energy on unnecessary issues.

Study smart: Study time doesn’t always have to be about memorising lessons. Instead, review and survey lessons, create notes, questions and answers, summarise and identify problem areas. Dr Krishna says, “We can’t grasp information when we are stressed. The day before the exam is not for rote learning.” Developing appropriate notes, colour-coding important facts, creating flashcards and keywords during preparation help students remember significant information.

Identifying stress: Are you spending sleepless nights? Are your muscles feeling tight? Are you irritated and not willing to eat? These are symptoms of stress. While it’s normal to feel stressed before exams, it’s also important to tackle anxiety. Try de-stressing yourself. Breathing exercises help bring about calm. Take a walk, listen to soothing music, play a game or paint something.

Friends, family, counsellors: Share your anxiety and distress with a supportive elder — parents, school counsellors and others. Speak to your friends. Learning that everyone goes through stress helps you cope with it.

Sleep well: A good night’s sleep usually cures all troubles. Exam time requires long hours of work, but not at the cost of sleep. Wake up happy — and then go and put pen to paper.

Swati Sanyal Tarafdar is a freelance journalist

Published on February 13, 2020

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