How to Manage Exam Stress

How to Manage Examination Stress

Examination assesses academic aspect of the individual. In the education an examination is a test to show the knowledge and ability of a student. End-products of all educative efforts are appraised by an exam. An examination is the first anxiety of students. Exams are an important part of education and the source of stress for many students. Stress is a fact and part of life and academics. It is all around us- in studies, in our environment and in our personal lives. Stress has become an inevitable companion today in all fields of life whether a person is an office-goer getting late for office or overburdened teacher or student or overworked house wife or a farmer tilling the field under hot sun or a soldier standing guard on snow clad mountains or a patient waiting endlessly for his turn to meet the doctor etc. Its management and coping has become a great concern for physiologists, psychologists, psychiatrists or clinicians. It is a generalized on- specific response of the body to any demand made on it. It describes physical, mental and emotional wear and tear brought about by difference between the requirement of the studies and the capabilities, resources and needs of the students to cope with academic demands. Stress can have a wide-ranging and adverse effect on the well-being of the students and his or her day to day functioning. This can be observed at physical, psychological, cognitive and behavioural levels.

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Stress has now become a concern for the field of education. In simple language, stress is the state of mind where one is depressed, frustrated and confused. It is caused by various internal as well as external strains and pressures. The psychological definition of stress is "any adjustive demand that requires an adaptive response from a human being". It is classified as- pressure, frustration, conflict, anxiety. Pressure can be internal which are generated by self like performance pressure or external like social or family responsibilities. Frustration is caused by limitations which are created by various obstacles like physical, environmental, social conditions. Conflict is difference of motive and desires. Selection of an inconsistent course in either can lead to guilt and in turn stress. Anxiety is also a reaction to frustrations. They are the driving force to adjustments. Also, stress is not always harmful. It also stimulates an individual to action appropriate for a situation. This can generate innovations and creativity. The term "distress" is reserved for the harmful effects of stress.

Stress management and coping have become a great concern, and it is important to approach it with a clear mind by following some coping techniques.

Coping techniques are of three types: (l) Physiological, (2) Behavioral and (3) Cognitive. Crucial physiological coping techniques are relaxation, controlled breathing and meditation. Progressive relaxation is the most effective procedure to reduce the tension in our muscles. To use this method, begin by alternately flexing and relaxing your muscles to appreciate the difference between relaxed and tense muscles. Next, you might shake out your arms and then let them flop by your sides. Then relax your shoulders by slowly rolling them up and down. Then relax your neck. Step by step you extend this process until your body is completely relaxed from head to toe. Controlled breathing is also important. When you are tense, you tend to take in relatively short, shallow breaths. However, as your body slows down during relaxation, notice that your breathing changes to deeper, longer breaths. Relaxation and breathing procedures are effective in reducing emotional as well as physical tension. A related technique that is often helpful for achieving a relaxed state is meditation.

Another type of coping techniques is behavioural coping methods. One method is time management. Adhering to a well- planned schedule can help us make more efficient use of our time and eliminate behaviours that interfere with our major goals. An important but often ignored is to balance study time and play time. One behavioural coping strategy is time management. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your day. Make a list of things you want to accomplish, each day. Arrange your list in order of priority. Plan to do the toughest things first and save the easier tasks for later in the day when you are low on energy. Arrange your work schedule to take the most advantage of those hours when you study best. Always set aside a block of time when you can study without any interruptions. Be flexible about changes in your schedule so that you can handle unexpected events. Plan for some leisure activity during your day - everybody needs a break. Set aside some time each day or week in which you always do some planned leisure activity. Another type of coping techniques is cognitive coping methods. We do not have control over all the stressors in our lives. For example, a father suffers greatly 'over the news of his son's cancer diagnosis - a stressor over which he had no control. He chose to focus on the negative, and by doing so became very ill. However, he could have replaced his negative thoughts with the possibility of more positive outcomes or cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is the process of replacing negative appraisals of stressors with more positive ones. To use this technique successfully, begin by monitoring what you say to yourself during a period of stress. Begin to modify these thoughts by thinking more adaptive thoughts. In other words try to discover something humorous about the situation, or imagine creative ways to reduce or eliminate the source of stress. Additionally, it is helpful to have access to several persons who can help you restructure stressors. These people can help you to perceive stressful events as less threatening and more under control than might otherwise the case. Cognitive appraisal plays a crucial role in the way we interpret stressors. They can suggest strategies for dealing with the sources of stress that you might not generate yourself, and they can help reduce the negative feelings that were often accompanying exposure to stressful events or situations.

As exams are a crucial part of education and the source of stress for many students, so, to avoid anxiety from these pesky evaluations, it is important to approach them with a clear mind and an understanding of how to deal with stressful situations more broadly. In many cases, exam stress is all in the mind, and mental discipline is a large part of what is needed to succeed.


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