Exam stress – what’s normal vs what’s not

The first term’s almost over and as you prepare for exams you might be feeling a bit stressed out, especially if you found the first term challenging. While exam stress’s normal, it shouldn’t be overwhelming or reach a point where you’re finding it difficult to function. Here’s what normal and abnormal stress looks like.

Difficulty sleeping

Healthy stress usually doesn’t affect your sleeping patterns too much, which means that you should be able to get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep even when you’re stressed. If you notice a drastic change in your sleeping pattern, then you need to start looking at whether your stress’s causing this change. Finding your stress triggers and some healthy ways to deal with them can help ease this symptom.

Frequent headaches

Everyone gets headaches every now and then, but if you start to get really bad headaches daily, then it may be a symptom of severe stress. Make sure you see your healthcare provider immediately when you notice this.

Trouble focusing

Stress can make it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time, but if it starts to get out of hand (you find it impossible to focus) then you may need to talk to someone about it. You can speak to a guidance counsellor at school, or click here to find out where you can get help.

Fear of failure

Being overwhelmed by the fear of failure is normal during exam time, especially if you’ve failed a term or a grade before. The trick is to not let that fear get in your way, find ways to motivate yourself when negative thoughts come. Rather than letting these thoughts consume you, spend time focusing on your studies and getting active.

Appetite changes

It’s normal for your appetite to change a little bit when you’re stressed out. It becomes a cause for concern when you start comfort eating or find that you’re unable to eat at all. Monitor what you’re eating closely and make sure that you stay hydrated and eat fruits and vegetables during this time – even if you don’t have much of an appetite.

It’s normal to feel a little bit stressed out during exams, but it shouldn’t get in the way of your studies or your health. If you do experience some of the issues I’ve mentioned, then it might be a good idea to speak to a medical professional or a guidance counsellor.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).