Exams: stress, pressure, anger, despair.
But it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of the school year.
Did you know that almost 80% of students feel negative emotions such as stress, pressure, anger, and despair during the exam period? Or that more than 90% of students worry too much about their final exams’ grades, according to a research conducted in various schools in Greece?
Maybe you are 1 of the 90. Maybe you are a parent supporting a child during their finals period.
In either case, you are not alone.
Let’s begin with looking at the world through a student’s lens.
School final exams begin tomorrow. You have been studying all year for this moment, now it is time to manage the pressure you feel and perform your best. After all, everyone keeps saying that this is your chance to make it to your dream college. Yet, not only do you feel unable to recall any of all these important equations your math teacher has taught you-you feel unable to even recall how to… write your name…! Hit a nerve?
Worry not — we have all been in your shoes. Yes, exams are overwhelming. Together, we can make them less terrifying and more manageable. I promise this is not a “wear your lucky charm and smile to the sun” kind of article. Here is the real deal. You can thank us later when you’ll be chilling at your university campus with your new friends.
Before we learn how we can manage pressure, shouldn’t we first explain what pressure really is- and why managing it is a soft skill?
In general, pressure is the psychological stress associated with expectations to perform well in a situation. Did you know that a parent can elicit pressure by wanting their child to perform well on a test? Or that some pressure is potentially good for performance? But too much pressure is a classic road to poor performance and negative feelings.
Pressure management is, in simple words, our capacity to minimise the pressure we feel and its negative impacts on our mental or physical well-being. There are numerous techniques for pressure management, such as mental, emotional, and behavioural strategies.
Okay, enough with the theory — your school professors have offered you theory enough to last for the rest of your life. Let’s get to the cool part, shall we?
Let’s say you go to the exam hungry, sleepless, and have been studying until the last minute before entering the exam room. You anxiously wait for the test to arrive, discussing the upcoming destruction with your super stressed classmates. What was that difficult Physic Law nobody can recite by heart? Oh, come on! You know you can, you MUST say it out loud immediately. How do you think this test will go? Have you secured the best possible conditions for yourself to handle it?
We are not oblivious here. Of course, the stress you feel might not let you sleep 8 hours and wake up to do a beauty routine, but — hear me out on this — if you have covered your basic needs, in the best possible way, you are already one step ahead!
- Maybe you won’t feel like eating much, but a light, nutritious breakfast will help your brain and body to have the fuel to cope with pressure. Guess why a large cup of coffee with an empty stomach won’t be as helpful…
- Sleep as much as you can. If you can’t, it is okay, you can always listen to your favorite calm music while you try to relax any muscle tension you feel. But definitely DO NOT wake up to study at 3 o’clock in the morning! You won’t remember anything the next day.
- If you feel like it and is possible, walk to school instead of taking the bus. Low-intensity exercise like walking can decrease cortisol during stressful situations. But if you are late DO NOT run your way to school, you will arrive sweaty, out of breath, and even more stressed than before!
- Finally, it is all about the mindset. This situation can be dealt with as a challenge that you can handle- or as a threat that you are afraid of. Research suggests that viewing a situation as a challenge (and not a threat) reduces our stress levels. After all, it has been found that a lack of self-esteem or the appropriate mindset for success, is actually associated with an increase in rumination, which also predicts negative feelings.
My dear friends, I leave you with this song that I think everyone needs to listen to. (The lyrics are taken from a famous essay — written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune — which gives some amazing advice for life!)
Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying
Is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life
The most interesting people I know
Didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.
Good luck with your exams!