How to manage exam stress during your time at Aberdeen

Everyone gets stressed during exam time but it’s important to not let it get out of control. A little big of stress can sometimes be a good thing – but exams can make stress levels get out of control, which can stop you performing at your best. People deal with stress in a variety of different ways. It’s important to find the approach that works best for you but here are some CluedUp tips to help combat stress during exam periods.

Take regular exercise
Research also shows that exercise can boost your mood as well as improve sleep quality and energy levels. Even if it’s just a short walk around the library or a walk around town for an hour, you’ll feel more alert and refreshed after a short amount of exercise. Here at the University of Aberdeen, we’ve got world-class sports facilities at the Aberdeen Sports Village that all our students can take advantage of.

Manage your time well
Make a revision plan and try to stick to it. Sitting down and breaking up your workload will make you feel better about tackling subjects in bite-sized chunks. It’s also a good idea to steer well clear of any exam ‘post-mortem’ – it doesn’t matter what your friend wrote for Question 3. After all, it’s too late to change your answer now.

A problem shared is a problem halved
Learn to recognise when you’re feeling stressed. A chat with a friend or a member of staff at the university who knows the pressure you’re under will get things into perspective. There is always someone you can talk to at the university, whether that’s the Student Advice and Support Office, the University Counselling office, the Chaplaincy, a Student Resident Assistant or even the folk at Nightline.

Events on campus
Look out for AUSA events over exam period. They often provide specialist drop-in events such as puppy therapy clinics and free massages.

Relaxation methods
The NHS can also help with information and advice to help students deal with exam stress. Relaxed breathing and deep muscle relaxation are two methods that are proven to reduce stress levels.

NHS tips: Relaxed Breathing
Good relaxation always starts with focusing on your breathing. They way to do it is to breathe in and out slowly and in a regular rhythm as this will help you to calm down. Practise this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day (or whenever you feel stressed).

Have a go at this simple breathing exercise:

  1. Fill up the whole of your lungs with air, without forcing. Imagine you’re filling up a bottle, so that your lungs fill from the bottom.
  2. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Breathe in slowly and regularly counting from one to five (don’t worry if you can’t reach five at first).
  4. Then let the breath escape slowly, counting from one to five.
  5. Keep doing this until you feel calm. Breathe without pausing or holding your breath.

NHS tips: Deep Muscle Relaxation
This technique takes around 20 minutes. It stretches different muscles in turn and then relaxes them, to release tension from the body and relax your mind.

Find a warm, quiet place with no distractions. Get completely comfortable, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and begin by focusing on your breathing; breathing slowly and deeply as described above.

If you have pain in certain muscles, or if there are muscles that you find it difficult to focus on, spend more time on relaxing other parts.

You may want to play some soothing music to help relaxation. As with all relaxation techniques, deep muscle relaxation will require a bit of practice before you start feeling its benefits.

For each exercise, hold the stretch for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat it a couple of times. It’s useful to keep to the same order as you work through the muscle groups:

  • Face: push the eyebrows together, as though frowning, then release.
  • Neck: gently tilt the head forwards, pushing chin down towards chest, then slowly lift again.
  • Shoulders: pull them up towards the ears (shrug), then relax them down towards the feet.
  • Chest: breathe slowly and deeply into the diaphragm (below your bottom rib) so that you’re using the whole of the lungs. Then breathe slowly out, allowing the belly to deflate as all the air is exhaled.
  • Arms: stretch the arms away from the body, reach, then relax.
  • Legs: push the toes away from the body, then pull them towards the body, then relax.
  • Wrists and hands: stretch the wrist by pulling the hand up towards you, and stretch out the fingers and thumbs, then relax.

Spend some time lying quietly after your relaxation with your eyes closed. When you feel ready, stretch and get up slowly. Visit the NHS for ten more ways to combat stress.

Ultimately, it’s important not to lose perspective. Exams will inevitably come to a finish. Things might seem intense now, but they won’t last forever.

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