How to cope with exam anxiety

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Feeling anxious about going into an exam situation is very common and completely understandable, especially if you’ve taken a long break from studying or if you left school a long time ago.

If this sounds like you and you’re worried about sitting your exam, please take the time to read our useful tips below.

  1. Take some slow, deep breaths

People who feel anxious tend to take quick, shallow breathes without realising. This can make your arms and legs feel tingly or feel like you’re going to faint. To help you feel calm, try to breathe slowly and deeply using this technique:

  • Take a slow breath in through the nose, breathing into your lower belly (for about 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth (for about 4 seconds)
  • Wait a few seconds before taking another breath

Repeat this cycle until you start to feel more relaxed. You can do this immediately before you go into the exam room or whilst you’re taking the exam.

  1. Use acupressure to relieve anxiety

Acupressure is an ancient Chinese method of healing which involves applying pressure to different points of the body. To relieve anxiety, measure three fingers width down from your wrist. Where your third finger touches the middle of your forearm, hold this pressure point and gently knead the thumb in a circular motion for 2 minutes. You should apply firm pressure on your skin, but not too much that it causes you any pain.

  1. Clench and relax

When you feel stressed out, adrenaline courses through your body and causes your heart rate to increase, muscles to tense up and make you feel uncomfortable and sometimes physically sick. To expend some of this nervous energy, try to clench your toes and your hands as hard as you can, hold this for 5 seconds and then relax your muscles again. This works well whether you are stood up or sat down. Repeat several times.

  1. Banish negative thoughts

You may sit down to your exam and think “I can’t do this. The questions look horrendous. I’ll never pass. I’m so scared of failing.” Before you know it, your thoughts have spiralled out of control. As soon as you notice these negative thoughts, stop them in their tracks! Even if you were to fail, having the experience of sitting the exam and seeing the style of questions will help you pass next time around. Take a deep breath because – no matter what the outcome – you will cope and everything will be okay.

And lastly….

Remember, this exam doesn’t define you, it is only measures a very very small part of the amazing person you are. If you pass – great! If not, you won’t be the first or last person to fail an exam, so try to keep everything in perspective. All anyone can expect of you on the day is to try your best and give it your all.

Good luck!

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