Countdown to Exams
- Final assignments!
- Too many!
- Not enough time!
- Mild uneasiness!
- Increasing anxiety!
- Feelings of panic!
- And sometimes, personal, family or social crisis!
What can you do
1. BE AWARE
Remember that a certain amount of stress (external/internal pressures) activates your sympathetic nervous system to action. An event that is useful. Too much stress becomes "dis" stress, immobilising us; and/or causing us to have unpleasant feelings. This event is not useful. So the first step and most critical step in managing distress is to try interventions immediately you feel vaguely uncomfortable or anxious. Recognise what your body and behaviour is telling you - and do something then!
2. DISTRESS REDUCTION (THERE ARE HUNDREDS)
Pace yourself even if your personality is one in which you usually do "it" at the last minute, try for the next six weeks to experiment with a plan. Do a rough time management diagram, put it up where it is obvious and stick to it as much as possible.
Give yourself "timeout". Know yourself - most people find that two hours is the maximum time for effective work. Take a break! Do something that makes you feel "good". Have longer breaks regularly. Do physical activity daily - it doesn't matter what it is as long as you feel better afterwards, and enjoy it.
Relaxation/meditation practised once or twice a day gives most people more energy and reduces the stress response. If you don't know how to do it, find a group, see or ring the counsellor in Student Services, use a tape, or buy a book. Attend a relaxation programme. These are held by Student Services each semester.
Look after yourself. What you put into your body will effect how you feel. Eat as well as possible. Some fruit and vegetables, grains, meat or eggs each day. Try to cut down on fatty goods. Too much coffee and other stimulants can rebound after days or weeks, and leave you feeling worse at the time when you need to be at your optimum. Avoiding stimulants in the later part of the day will help out to have unbroken sleep.
Seek help. If you find that you are worrying so much that the thoughts and feelings interfere with what you want to do, see a counsellor. Friends can be helpful but generally they have their own problems; a counsellor at Student Services will be able to give you help with better management of intrusive worries or emotional problems.
Communicate if you find yourself faced with a crisis which seems to mean you will be very disadvantaged, tell the appropriate people early. Talk to the lecturers concerned, consult Student Services.
Be aware of your self talk. Most of us have a string of "put downs" we say to ourselves (or out loud). Phrases like "I'm stupid", "I'm slow." "I always stuff up." etc. We say them many times a day. They are not even balanced by one congratulatory statement, let alone the same amount of useful positives. Experiment by changing your phrases in some way , eg "I'm stupid" into "I made a mistake", "I'm slow" into "I sometimes take my time". Generally the words to watch out for in self talk are:
|Group 1||Group 2|
"Shoulds" and the words in Group 1 can be changed into "coulds". Group 2 can be altered to the reality of the situation eg "someone" or "some people", "sometimes". "Can't" can usually be changed to "don't want to", "difficult" or "can". Try it! If you want some extra help with changing thought patterns, see a counsellor.
Laugh. The best and fastest stress reduction comes from laughter. Don't isolate yourself; see friends, view a film/video that makes you feel better at the end than at the beginning.
Books which are helpful: (there are hundreds) Wilson, Paul: Instant Calm. Penguin Aust 1995
Montgomery, B & Evans, L: You and Stress. Viking O'Neil, Aust
Montgomery, B & Morris, L: Surviving - Coping with a Life Crisis. Lothian, Aust 1989
For further information related to this article contact a student counsellor.