Exam stress: Five tips to make it an asset


Last springboard for exams, graduation – or even entry into the workforce, for the oldest of them – the end of the semester represents for students one of the most stressful periods of year.

According to a study conducted in the United States, 60% of undergraduates report experiencing above-average stress levels during this period. More than a third say that this has pulled their academic performance down . Although stress can have negative effects, as a specialist in stress management, I know there are ways to make it an asset.

Here are some ways to help young people look after their own well-being in the final stretch of the year.

Accept stress

It has happened that schools and universities encourage their students to enjoy a “spring without stress” . If the sending of this kind of message starts from a good intention, it can give them unrealistic expectations.

The end of the semester is indeed a stressful period. Trying to escape this reality can do more harm than good. This is the case if students are worried about the very fact of feeling stress. This will lead them to avoid stressful situations not to amplify these sensations. To reduce their stress levels, they will be tempted to postpone their revisions or homework.

This kind of avoidance can in turn generate more pressure, as the causes of stress will not dissipate. This will create new problems, such as feeling depressed . If the avoidance strategy seems instinctive, research shows that accepting this stress would actually allow some students to protect themselves from negative emotions such as fear.

Change your point of view

Stress can be harmful but it can also make people more productive and focused, and promote personal growth .

The way you think about stress is important too. Some research even shows that your beliefs about it could become self-fulfilling prophecies . This means that if you think that the effects of stress are dangerous, they can be more dangerous. Conversely, if you think they are useful , you will get more positive results according to Alia Crum, psychology professor at Stanford.

Adopting a positive point of view on stress can only be beneficial.

Give a sense of stress

Research shows that attaching meaning to stressors in your life can help you better manage them.

In her book The Right Side of Stress , psychologist Kelly McGonigal argues that a meaningful life is a stressful life. In other words, the most important sources of stress in our lives cut across the main sources of meaning. As far as the students are concerned, we must realize that all the obligations they have to submit to – homework, tests and projects – are an essential step in the realization of their goals, their dreams, and the accomplishment of their passions.

Soliciting your network

It is important for students to look to their social network and the people they trust to share what they are experiencing.

Research shows that social connections are important for managing stress and overcoming it .

Calling on others can help to cope with difficulties and change the way stressors are evaluated. In short, stressful situations will seem less threatening and less negative. Use of social resources has been shown to promote physical and mental health, provide a sense of control, and even help strengthen the immune system.

To know how to be grateful

When students are stressed, pessimism slips more easily into their daily lives. In these cases, they may tend to overlook the positive things that happen to them. If they rely on the right events that occur and know how to sincerely express their gratitude, despite the stress they are undergoing, they will notice interesting changes , especially a decrease in this same stress.

Gratitude can improve mental health and overall well-being. So go ahead and take advantage of this positive emotion. The stress will not disappear completely, but the students will be better armed in the face of the pressures that still remain.

Author Bio: Jennifer Wegmann is Professor of Health and Wellness Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York