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Turn Exam Stress Into A Success Weapon

In order to be successful in your academics, it is important to Turn Exam Stress Into A Success Weapon. Stress is a normal thing we all undergo, but you can find a way to make out work for you. Most young people experience levels of exam stress that Mental Health Organisation (MHO) ReachOut would describe as “worrying”. According to Reach, high levels of exam stress can interfere with attention and can reduce working memory which normally lead to poor performance. In adult, early experiences of anxiety and stress can also set a precedent for mental-health problems. However, how we see stress can actually make a difference to the way it affects us. If we believe stress is a helpful response that will increase our performance in a challenging event, it can serve as a tool to our advantage.

Stress is normal, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating

When we have a challenging event, stress becomes a normal experience. Stress can be experienced when learning or starting something new like a new job or being in a race. When undergoing “stress”, it is actually our body getting us ready to take on a challenge. A response to stress is very helpful as it can increase oxygen to the brain and improve energy,  focus attention and determination. In a race, the runner needs to be stressed in order to compete successfully. Young person sitting in an exam room also needs it. Studies proves that people who are clear about their feelings are more likely to thrive on anxiety and stress and possible use these to achieve their goals and find satisfaction at work.

Stress and anxiety can work for you. But they tend to be bad when we evaluate events as a threat instead of a challenge and also when we believe we don’t have enough resources to cope.

Exams are often treated as a threat because there is potential harm or loss related to our self-worth, our identity and commitments, dreams and goals. If we fail, we think we are a failure and we may never get the future we had hoped for. Our whole life becomes at stake.

Turn stress into something positive

Use exam stress to your advantage. In a nutshell, instead of seeing stress as debilitating, let us develop a mindset that stress helps our performance, well-being and our health, then it’ll work for us. In a US study, a group of young people were given information about stress before sitting an exam. The reading material explained stress was not harmful, but that it had evolved in order to help us cope as well as perform better. Another group were advised to just suppress their emotion and ignore stress.

Researchers discovered that the first group performed significantly better in the exam (average five marks improvement) than the group who used the ignore-and-relax approach. Again, another group saw stress as an opportunity and used it for self-growth and it increased their performance and decreased emotional exhaustion. But students who believe stress to be a threat showed decreased effort and performance.

How to eliminate exam stress was not examined in this studies. Rather, they examined a change in the way students respond to it. Below are some tips on how to use stress to your own advantage.

Turn Exam Stress Into A Success Weapon

1. Read your body differently

Start by reading your stress response as being there to help you prepare for the challenges ahead. Instead of seeing it as a threat, try as much as possible to see it as a coping tool. You can say to yourself when experiencing stress: “I am feeling a little uncomfortable; my heart is beating faster, but my body is getting me ready to compete”. Always see stress as something positive.

2. Reframe the meaning of the event

Do not frame exam as a threat, instead frame them as a challenge. One of the reason they see stress as a threat is because your whole worth, future and identity appear to be at stake. This is not true. Exams are one very tiny part of your life that does not decide your whole future except you believe it to be. Sometimes, the part we imagine looks a little different. Not all journeys are straight, the best ones can have diversions.

3. Accept stress and negative emotions

The most common way people approach stress is to ignore and reduce it, and also try to relax. These approaches actually reinforce that stress is “bad” rather than accepting it as a helpful and natural response. These approaches also lead to emotional exhaustion and lower performance.

Its better to feel the emotions rather than ignoring them, accept them, and they to use them to your own advantage. You can say in a positive way to yourself: “I feel this way because of how important this goal is to me, and my body is responding this way because it is getting me ready to perform”.

4. Add to your resources

Obviously, changing your mindset is only helpful if you have the available resources to cope. It will be like an athlete who is ready to compete but not trained. Put time into studying, study in different ways (read, write down ideas in your own words, talk about the ideas and draw them) and give yourself more time to practise and master these ideas.

When you do this, your stress response then draws on these resources. As we take on new challenges and grow as a person in life, stress will always be present. Low-level stress becomes a threat when we see it as one.

However, you can see your GP and get adequate support if you are feeling severe stress and anxiety in different settings and for an extended period of time