Now I’m no expert when it comes to beating stress however I was a University student for 5 years, and I believe that for four of those years, I was stressed from exams, coursework and all sorts! So I would say, over the years I developed a few ‘strategies’ to help beat the stress of exam and coursework pressure and thought I’d share them as it’s exam time!
1. Be disciplined – Sometimes a good ol’ slap of reality is what you need to see that once you’ve got your degree, you have to live with it. The work you have to put in for that short amount of time (in the grand scheme of LIFE) is really not that big of a deal and there will be much more pressing matters to attend to than sitting revising for an exam or writing an essay. So just do it! Be disciplined and dedicate that time to your work…you’re paying for it after all (another slap of reality). By being disciplined, creating goals and achieving them, you will feel so much less stressed because getting things done, working hard and seeing the results is always a win.
2. Plan – Just plan everything. Now if you’re a procrastinator, this one seems obvious because you often spend more time planning than actually doing in order to avoid that dreaded work. But it really goes a long way to calming your nerves and releasing pressure. Sure, when you write down EVERYTHING you have to do, you burst into tears at the list wondering where you’re gonna start and when’s it gonna end… but it also gives you some clarity, so that you can best plan your time. Last year when I was doing my masters, my friend gave me this amazing day-to-day planner (best gift ever!) and every day I would write out what I wanted to achieve with my work. This really helped me plan my time and get my work done. I live by to-do lists and the main reason is because ticking things off a list makes me do a little carlton dance (in my head) every time. Oh and that planner was from Paperchase (find it here) of course… hence its amazing-ness.
3. Working 9-5 – Although days can sometimes drag, I’m so happy that I am in a job where I work 9-5 because I’ve realised I like a bit of routine. I like working just those hours and then stopping at 5 and having a life… or going home, and monging about all evening in front of the TV, being super-productive for that 9-5 and then switching off after that. And why not!? After I finished my work placement in Barcelona in 2012, I came back and adopted this routine when back at Uni, and it actually really helped. Even though I lived in a city for a year that really never sleeps, I still had this 9-5 routine there so brought the habit back home. This was particularly useful during my masters as it was 100% coursework based so I would work all day, tick everything off my list and then relax all evening, guilt-free knowing I’d done what I was supposed to. You also then have time to cook, re-fuel, relax and de-stress, go to bed early and wake up to the same routine the next day. It really works…think of your study day like a working day.
4. Eat and drink healthily – During stressful times we tend to binge completely on junk. I used to see people in the library practically set up camp at a desk for the day (and night) and fill their table with food…you couldn’t even see their revision notes it was buried in their sweet wrappers. Eating a healthy diet really does help whilst studying. Eating good food improves your brain power, concentration, energy levels and mood so by eating the right foods you are bound to be on the right track! Substitute the energy drinks for water and you will feel hydrated and refreshed without suffering from those sluggish come-downs. The key is to help yourself feel more energised to work, combatting the stress.
5. Be organised and don’t leave it late – This is different from planning and you’ve probably been told this a million times. The workload at uni can be excessive for most, so revising all that semesters content isn’t going to happen in one day… even if you have a photographic memory! Organise your time, plan ahead, create a revision table (that you can realistically stick to) and leave yourself enough time to fit everything in. That way you are not cramming towards the exam and stressing yourself out.
6. Get a pal – And I don’t mean your clubbing partner! Get together with some course mates to discuss your work, revise together and share ideas. I really regret not doing this more because the few times I did, really helped me! Two heads are better than one and bouncing ideas off each other is a great way to learn. People often remember conversations they have had better than what they have read in a book, so utilise the art of speech and talk to people about what you are revising. You may be surprised to learn that you know more than you think, and people are learning from you too. Even if you don’t revise with course mates, sometimes its nice to have someone there to support you through your work, who will sit there and listen to you venting your stresses or to listen to you explain what you are revising as if you are teaching it to them. Throughout my masters I would get extremely anxious at times, and I’m very lucky to have a best friend that would actually drive up to visit me during pretty stressful times, help me focus, calm me down and sometimes even just sit in my room with me whilst I worked! She’s a babe.
Like I said, I’m no expert on relieving stress, but these things have helped me before. That, and some really useful breathing techniques (which BELIEVE ME actually do work). Good luck for those taking exams and in the words of Deepak Chopra…”You must find that place inside yourself where nothing is impossible”, so you can do it! Work hard and remember that after all, you’re at University… you’re meant to be abit stressed, because you’re meant to work! Then party.