How to cope with Exam and Work Stress

The exam season is about to hit, and for many school children this can be a time of great anxiety and stress. A little bit of stress can be a good thing, and can help motivate us to achieve our goals, however for some this can become over-whelming, derailing our best efforts and stopping us from performing at our highest levels.

Exams themselves, don’t cause the anxiety. When we break it down, we realise that an exam is just simply a task that needs to be completed.  However, it’s the tricks that our mind can play on us, that can then cause the fear of the exam itself. This is an important realisation, because once we are aware of this, we understand that it is within ourselves that we can find the answer to the problem that we have created. This may sound harsh but its important that we realise that we are the captain of our own ship and can control the way we think about situations and events in our lives.

The great news is that you can take back control of the situation

Here in Dorset, I help people overcome the anxieties that surround exams and performance. The fact is that exam stress is the same as the stress suffered by those performing on the stage, or in Sport. It is grouped and labelled ‘performance anxiety’ and individuals can suffer to such an extent they are unable to think clearly. When we are stressed, we use the primitive parts of our brain. This area is designed to protect us from danger. This is a great thing when we encounter potential threats to our safety such as when a wasp buzzes around our head. We pump out hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that help us to react quickly. Unfortunately, it can stop us from using the parts of our brain that allow us to perform well in exams.

Having been a teacher, I appreciate how difficult it can be for children to deal with exams. All you want for our developing children is to be able to express what they can do, when they want or need to be able to do it!

The following is a list of ways to reduce stress

  • One of the biggest ways you can reduce stress is to try and avoid those around you who are showing signs of stress. The reason for this is that stress can be contagious, and we mirror this when we are around people, in the same way that a smile can be contagious or even a yawn.
  • Another way you can help your stress levels is by keeping a calm environment to work or study in, perhaps having a plant in your study space.
  • Also make sure you have plenty of fresh food in the house, and ensure you sip plenty of water or drinks during the day to stay hydrated and keep your brain alert and functioning to its maximum.
  • Try to keep your study or work area decluttered, and use calming essential oils such lavender. You can also use Rosemary or Peppermint as these have been used for thousands of years as an aid to improve memory.
  • Try to limit time on social media, this not only stops you from wasting valuable time when you could be studying or working, it also can help reduce anxiety. Social media can be known to increase anxiety, especially if someone you know is spreading the panic online.
  • Also be aware that going analogue can be detrimental to learning. When you write information down, it lights up different pathways in the brain that aid learning and memory recall. For those of a creative personality you can use mind mapping techniques to build patterns of information that help you recall information and can be more fun to do.
  • Don’t forget to take regular breaks. Get outside and get some fresh air, its important to allow the brain time to consolidate what you have learnt.
  • Get some exercise, this way you can release feel good endorphins and help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Get plenty of sleep, this is where most of your learning is processed into your long-term memory. Make the most of this, and let your brain recover for the next day.
  • Be positive and visualise yourself doing well. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, so instead of telling yourself you feel nervous, tell yourself ‘I feel excited’ or ‘I am well prepared for these exams’. The more you practise and imagine yourself in a relaxed state in the exam, the mind can then prepare the body for this.

One of the most important things to remember is that many of the most successful people in the world weren’t particularly academic. Leonardo Da Vinci for example didn’t have what we would call a formal education, and he didn’t do too badly!

Exams are a good way to test our ability to memorise information, and our ability to cope under pressure, but what they can’t do is test somebody’s entrepreneurial spirit, musical or sporting skills or capacity to be kind or indeed their common sense!

Illuminating Minds Hypnotherapy

If despite the above advice you are still feeling anxious about your up-coming exams, here at Illuminating Minds we use proven Hypnotherapy techniques to help an individual to regain the calm and balance required to perform at their best. So often we are taught how to observe and learn and be active, but what we aren’t always shown is how to be calm and rest the mind. There is a strong learning benefit in being calm. In my sessions I explain how anxiety is a process that can build up over time.  I use a stress bucket as a metaphor to show how anxiety and worries accumulate over time. This is where we store all our anxious thoughts in a queue waiting to be processed. During REM sleep we process our anxieties, removing the emotional negative parts.  But if we have too much to process, the quality of our sleep can suffer, and we get caught in a vicious circle of sleep deprivation and heightened anxiety. Hypnosis or trance breaks this circle by simulating REM sleep and can help us process our worries and empty our stress bucket. It can also help us to focus and visualise how we want things to go during our exams or at work in a calm and methodical way.

If you feel Hypnotherapy could be of benefit and you would like to learn more,  contact Illuminating Minds now and we can start getting you back in control and on a path to your own success.