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How to cope with exam stress

Some tips from Counselling and Psychological Services on how to cope with the pressure
April 19, 2012
By Lesley De Marinis

With fewer than two weeks left until Concordia’s exam period ends, students like Aalia Adam are feeling the pressure.

“I’m going crazy!” says Adam, a journalism student. “I just want it to be over. I only have two exams but it’s been really hard to focus because they’re my last exams for my degree and I’m flying to India in a week. So my mind is all over the place but I’m trying to stay disciplined and convincing myself that it’ll all be over soon.”

Many other students are in the same boat.

“I’m constantly worried and stressed about getting everything done on time,” says film studies student Kimmy Fox. “I’m just counting down the days and rewriting my to-do list as much as possible. It’ll be an awesome feeling to hand in those last papers, that’s for sure.”

Dale Robinson, manager of Counselling and Psychological Services at Concordia, says that the end of term always brings with it an increase in the number of students seeking the help and services of Concordia’s Counselling and Development Department.

“You walk around campus at this time of year and the student stress is almost palpable,” she says. “You can just feel it in the air.

“We have more crisis walk-ins and we also have more students who maybe don’t show up for their regular appointments because they’re studying or they forgot they had a paper to do. And we definitely see more people who might show up really stressed out or not feeling well.”

Robinson offers the following tips for students who are feeling the stress of exam time:

Take care of yourself

This means eating well, using exercise as an outlet to relieve stress, and avoiding bad sleep patterns or all-nighters.

“You want your body and your mind in their best state. Self care is really important and to stay up all night and do those kind of things doesn’t bode well, not only for the body of the student but also for the quality of work that they’re going to be able to do.”

Avoid unhealthy, short-term solutions

Some students may think that a night of drinking will help relieve their exam worries, but Robinson says that isn’t the case.

“It’s not a good long-term goal, for obvious reasons, because it messes up your system,” she says. “At a certain point alcohol can be like a depressant and impact your mood, and the same thing is true with drugs. It’s not a good long-term coping mechanism.”

It’s all about balance

“Some students think that they can study 12 hours a day and it doesn’t matter if you eat or sleep well, or see your friends, or go to the gym,” Robinson says. “Forgetting about balance and only thinking about school is not the way to go. You’re going to end up burning yourself out.”

Visualize the end of exams

Robinson suggests that students focus on their end goals.

“It’s kind of like when you’re running a marathon and you have this picture of crossing that finish line,” she explains. “It’s the same thing for students. They should picture themselves crossing that finish line — having the summer to relax, or graduation, or taking a trip. Whatever it is.”

And lastly, you don’t have to be stressed

“There’s some sort of belief that if you’re not stressed for your exams then you’re not really putting everything in,” Robinson says. “Students think that they have to be stressed to approach their finals when actually it’s the opposite. The calmer that you are and the more grounded that you are, the more you’re going to be able to pull out of your memory when you go into your exams.”

Students can make an appointment with a member of the Counselling and Development team at either campus, in person or by phone,

Sir George Williams Campus: Room H-440, Henry F. Hall Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), 514-848-2424, ext. 3545.

Loyola Campus: Room AD-103, Administration Building  (7141 Sherbrooke St. W.), 514-848-2424, ext. 3555.

Related links:
•  Counselling and Development
•  Health Services

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