Healthy coping mechanisms for the final exam stretch

Every student has experienced exam stress at some point- it’s an unavoidable part of student life. Stress exists for a reason, and you can either choose to let it be your downfall, or use it to drive you to success. Here are my tips to help keep your stress under control, so you can focus on acing your exams.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can help calm you down when you’re feeling overwhelmed before or during an exam, or even while taking a study break. There are many techniques you can find by simply searching for ‘breathing exercises’ online. Whenever you feel anxious, you can try the below 4-7-8 exercise:

First, let your lips part and make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.

Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.

Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.

Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

Repeat until you feel calm.

Avoid unhealthy foods and drinks

Exams can be a trigger for stress-eating, which happens when you eat to cope with your emotions. If you’re having cravings for unhealthy foods or feel like over-indulging even after you feel full, you may be stress-eating. Be mindful of what foods you’re eating and how often you eat so that you’re feeling energised instead of bloated and tired. Read my article on healthy eating on a budget here.

Avoid substance abuse

Taking drugs or drinking alcohol before, during or after your exam can do more harm than good. Remember that alcohol or drugs can affect our concentration levels and memory for up to 48 hours. Instead of resorting to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, consider breathing exercises, going for a walk, or resting.

Avoid coffee and energy drinks

It’s important to avoid coffee and energy drinks because caffeine can make you feel even more anxious and tired once you crash from the high. It can also make certain symptoms of anxiety (such as jitteriness or an upset stomach) worse.

It’s okay to feel stressed and overwhelmed during your exams- the important thing is to adopt healthy stress coping habits during this time. Be the best you can be and give it your all during this final stretch. If it doesn’t work out, there’s always a chance to improve yourself on your next try. 

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).