Strategies to Manage Stress During Exams

Many students feel anxious before a test or final exam.  Below are some solid strategies that you may find helpful if you're feeling stressed:

Connect with others often
Connecting with friends and/or loved ones can help counteract stress.  Trying sending texts, emails, making phone and/or video calls.  You could also meet up with someone to go for a walk or study session.  If you are struggling and need to talk to someone try Good2Talk (phone or text) and/or Wellness Together Canada – all available 24/7.  Undergraduate and MBA students can also connect with Console while graduate students can access Empower Me.

Watch your language
Thoughts can affect our emotions, which in turn can produce physical sensations.  If you notice that you are having many negative and/or irrational thoughts (i.e., “I can’t do this”, “I’m going to fail”, etc.) try challenging them and re-framing them into positive ones (i.e., “I’ve prepared for this exam”, “I have skills to get through this”, etc.).  This positive mindset can help you feel less anxious and may alleviate some of your physical symptoms.  If you need other strategies, check out our Managing Your Anxiety self-directed module.

Practice being present
If you find yourself getting anxious about an upcoming exam, try doing a short mindfulness exercise. This could be as simple as breathing a bit slower and more consciously (e.g., breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4). You could also check out the TAO mindfulness library that includes exercises like grounding with categories, math, imagery and/or touch.  Students can also book a free MUSE biofeedback appointment.

Take active breaks, outside if possible
Being physically active and spending time outside in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels.  Try standing up and/or moving around during your study breaks; every little bit counts. Check out the opportunities to get active through Athletics & Recreation.

Fuel yourself with whole foods
Our brain and bodies function more optimally if we fuel them with fruits and vegetables, lean or plant-based protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Try using the healthy plate model for your meals or the connection between Stress and Food from the Registered Dietician with Hospitality Services.  Check out CampusWell for quick, easy and inexpensive recipes and food access resources.

Power down before bed
Try to stop studying, watching videos and/or browsing content online before bed to help get better quality sleep. If you’re having trouble falling asleep when you turn out the lights, try writing down what’s on your mind to give your brain and body permission to let it go and get some sleep. If you need help getting better quality sleep, book a free one-on-one wellness coaching appointment.

Find additional tips for managing test anxiety (and lots of other great effective study habit suggestions) on the Student Academic Success Services (SASS) website.