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Destress your way to exam success

Each year students become casualties of the stress generated by State exams. More than half of female 6th years in Ireland are stressed, along with a third of their male peers. Stress is a universal effect of exams which helps us to deal with daily challenges, stay focussed and succeed. However, a build-up of stress can cause both physical and psychological health issues.

A heightened state of anxiety does not accommodate active studying. More importantly, it poses a threat to your health. Do not lose perspective amid the pressure. They say it's all about a balance, but balancing study and a social life brings its own stresses to light.

Don't panic. Take action now to combat stress and maintain your focus. Hopefully, highlighting this problem now will help students to reduce the effects of stress -- I reckon stress management should have a class of its own.


Students should minimise the pressure they feel by confronting the issue and having a plan to deal with it. Give yourself daily incentives. To stay in control, it is important to see the light at the end of the tunnel each day. Relaxation can take the form of watching a favourite TV show; a walk with friends; socialising at a party or meeting your boyfriend. Showing your face at an 18th birthday party every weekend will leave you scrambling for sleep. Take time out to shield yourself against stress.

A common source of exam stress is disorganisation. When your study pattern is chaotic your mind becomes frazzled. You should introduce a clear study structure to every day.

Each evening I advise you to construct a study plan for the following day. This will send you to bed with an organised mind.

Excessive consumption of caffeine can cause symptoms linked to stress such as insomnia, nausea, headaches etc. Caffeine is present in tea, coffee, energy drinks and many soft drinks.

Used in moderation, caffeine can increase alertness. However, students tend to over do it without being aware of the consequences. If you feel sluggish while studying, crack open a window and have a glass of cold water. That should keep you alert without generating any unfavourable side effects.

Also steer clear of alcohol. Many students are convinced a few drinks at the weekend after a tough week of study will do no harm but they are ignoring the depressant effect alcohol has on the nervous system. As a result, the following days' study plans will suffer.

Eliminate this risk by surrounding yourself with ambitious like-minded peers. Indeed, carve time out of your hectic schedule to chill with friends. It's a beneficial necessity. But be selective; do not get involved with peers who serve as a distraction from your study. Stick to your goals and do not get swayed by the crowd.

Exercise is often neglected in the run-up to the exam by most students as they feel time is running out.

This is unfortunate, considering that exercise is one of the optimal stress busters out there. I would certainly advise some form of exercise as a way to unwind.

You should, however, make sure that study is undertaken before exercise or a 'reward', on all occasions. The TV programme can be recorded to watch later and all other fun activities must follow the work. Never do tomorrow what you can do today.


Get some sleep: it is recommended you aim for eight hours of sleep a night. Avoid late-night cramming. Put your notes away at least an hour before you hit the sack. Relax. This time permits your brain to switch off. A sound sleep will improve concentration levels for the following day.

Recognise what is counter productivity and steer clear from it. Sleep deprivation will simply morph you into a bleary-eyed monster instead of the confident genius you are.

If you took a complete break for a few days at Easter do not fret. If you have really pushed yourself between Christmas and Easter this is not a problem. In fact, it is advantageous.

Hopefully you caught up on lost sleep and feel rested and refreshed. This will give you the edge as you attack the last six to seven weeks.