It is that time of the year where all of us students are preparing for and completing our final examinations for the semester. Being the culmination of the entire semester of learning, these exams often carry immense weight and pressure, which in turn can cause intense stress, filling up our minds with way more than a regular person should handle. This experience can have profound effects on our physical and mental well-being, social life, as well as academic performance. I want to highlight some mindful strategies to manage and alleviate this overwhelming pressure, as well as shed some light on additional aid that is available to students from the University of Surrey.
Time management: Developing a realistic study schedule is essential to effectively manage time during final exams. It is crucial to allocate specific time slots for studying, breaks, and downtime. Creating a balanced schedule ensures that we can maintain a healthy equilibrium and avoid burnout. Incorporating breaks and relaxation periods into the schedule can help us to recharge our minds, enhance focus, and prevent mental exhaustion.
Self-care: Prioritizing self-care activities is vital during the intense period of final exams. For example, doing regular exercise not only promotes physical well-being but also boosts cognitive function and reduces stress. While difficult to regularly do during exam season, sufficient sleep is equally important as it enhances memory consolidation and cognitive performance. Additionally, consuming nutritious meals provides the necessary energy and nutrients to fuel the brain and support overall well-being. Building a good foundation for exercise, sleep, and food can help you beyond your university life as well.
Relaxation techniques: Incorporating stress-reducing techniques into daily routines is crucial for maintaining mental clarity and promoting relaxation. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness practices can help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and enhance focus. Personally, calming orchestral, jazz and piano music in the background helps my mind to relax, and focus better during studying.
Perspective shift: Instead of fixating solely on grades, it is essential to shift focus towards the learning process and personal growth. Adopting an optimistic mindset allows us to view exams as opportunities for improvement and development rather than purely evaluative measures. Embracing the learning journey helps alleviate some of the intense pressure, reduces fear of failure, and allows for a more positive and productive mindset.
Set realistic expectations: Setting realistic personal expectations is crucial during final exams. Trying to cram an excessive amount of material into the last minute can lead to overwhelm and hinder effective learning. Starting the studying process early and breaking down the material into manageable chunks ensures a more comprehensive understanding and retention of information. This will also help to better apply the knowledge we learn later in life during your professional career.
Take breaks: While already mentioned above as part of time management, it is important to highlight that taking breaking is essential to studying efficiently. Taking regular breaks allows the brain to recharge and process information effectively. Getting up, moving around, stretching, or engaging in brief physical activity every 20-30 minutes can improve blood circulation, enhance focus, and combat mental fatigue.
Reward yourself! Celebrating small milestones and study goals is important for maintaining motivation and staying on track. After achieving a specific study target, rewarding oneself with something enjoyable, such as a favourite snack or leisure activity, reinforces positive behaviour and provides a sense of accomplishment. Rewarding yourself after realistic, achievable targets can help to lower the stress accumulated during the study session.
Don’t compare yourself to others! Comparing oneself to others only adds unnecessary stress and anxiety. All of us have our unique learning style and pace. It is more productive to focus on personal progress and improvement rather than comparing achievements with peers. Concentrating on our own growth allows for a healthier mindset and a more positive learning experience. This also means that while there are many options to being mindful during the exam period, you should focus on what helps you more, rather than trying to do too much and overwhelming yourself.
Remember that you are not alone! It is crucial to remember that everyone experiences stress during final exams. Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist if feelings of overwhelm become too much to handle. Talking about concerns and emotions can provide valuable support and perspective, reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles.
Seek support: Don’t hesitate to reach out for support during final exams. There are many exam support services available at the University of Surrey which be found here, while wellbeing support can be found here. Connecting with others who are going through a similar experience can offer a sense of reassurance, motivation, and understanding. Additionally, forming study groups or participating in online discussions for each module through SurreyLearn can also foster collaborative learning and create a support network.
Nobody knows you better than yourself, and it is important to evaluate at least some of the support options available to you during the exam period, to find out what works best for you. A healthy mind results in healthy grades! Good luck for your exams!
Cheering you on,