#operationGYST: Managing Exam Season Stress

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fellow students and professionals, exam season is upon us! Is this time synonymous with sleepless nights for you? Poor eating habits and questionable jokes about becoming a stripper instead? Stress unmanaged! If yes, then you aren’t alone and this post is written just for you. Read on for 5 ways to Get Your Shit Together and manage exam season stress.

1. Be Well
Stress is categorically physical, so managing it has everything to do with looking after your body. From what you put in it to what you use it to do there are little ways in which you can keep you body in top form, to minimise stress and improve your mental performance during exam season. 
Coffee? Cut it out. There’s way too much caffeine in it for you to be chugging down multiple cups a day in the name of concentration. Swap coffee with green tea. The latter gives you a gentler caffeine kick with added benefits of improved cognitive function and lower psychological distress.
Keep your brain chilled and focused by having regular, light snacks. Avoid excessively sugary foods that will spike your glucose levels. Think bananas, blueberries, nuts, popcorn, dark chocolate, leafy salads, or lean proteins!
Sleep. For most people that’s 6-7 hours each night but if it’s longer don’t deprive yourself. However long you need, create time for it. It might seem genius to sleep less and study (or procrastinate, in truth) more but the quality of said study time deteriorates with tiredness as we become less receptive and more anxious. So sleep yo!
Take time for a workout. It doesn’t have to be hours on end in the gym. A simple home workout or run around your local park does wonders. Keep it aerobic and make it regular to reduce overall levels of bodily tension and to improve and stabilise your mood.
2. Optimise Your Environment 
Organise your space, your notes, and therefore your mind. "Less mess equals less stress” is the theory behind organising your environment and psychiatrists state that you need to organise what is around you and in front of you before you are able to organise from within. If you’re studying in a public space such as a library or coffeehouse choose your seat strategically, make sure there isn’t too much distracting chatter or footfall where you sit. 
Drown out the noise with a study playlist. PLAYLISTS ARE SO KEY. I listen to a lot of French RnB or Trap whilst Esmé swears by post-classical artists like Ludovico Einaudi. Whatever you listen to depends on what helps keep you calm and focused. Keep it light.

3. Do The Work
To quote pastor Kevin Neuner: stress is a condition experienced when “demands exceed the resources the individual is able to mobilise.” In less formal terms, we feel stressed when things are out of control. Don’t let things get out of control. Kick procrastination habits, feel the dread and do the work anyway. It’s ludicrously simple but there are far too many viral tweets on ignoring our responsibilities and hoping for the best to make this point not worth mentioning. Do The Work!
4. Have a Support System 
Exam season is a great time to lean on your loved ones. If you’re worried, anxious whatever the case speak up. During this time try not to bottle things up and let them fester. Often talking about how you feel is enough to feel better and if it’s not someone external with a broader perspective than you now has your back to support you in taking the next steps.
Another helpful way to build a support system and manage stress is to find a study buddy. Some people study more productively in isolation but it doesn’t harm to have someone who can act as an accountability partner and check in on how you’re doing. Whichever way, choose someone who is as focused and motivated as you. Crucially, choose someone who is positive. 

5. Recharge
In order to diffuse the mental and emotional intensity of exam season it’s important to recharge. Leave your desk to stretch at regular intervals. Create time in your schedule to see a movie or go for a meal or socialise in some way once in the week. Finally, have some you-time. If that means a soak in the bathtub or an hour with your console, so be it. See to it that you have time to just be.

Voilà! Be well, optimise your environment, do the work, have a support system, and recharge. I hope these five methods help you manage stress efficiently this exam season, let me know in the comments section below. Remember we’re in this together. We’ve got this!

 Tiffany Xo

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