Alternative Exam Stress Busting Techniques And Mindfulness

27th April 2017



As exam season looms ahead, we thought we’d arm our students with some alternative revision and stress busting techniques, including advice on basic mindfulness techniques in order to combat the stress many young people will experience in the next couple of months.

Obviously our first piece of advice is to use ConquerMaths as much as possible!

ConquerMaths is available in HTML5 so you can access your revision content, testing, study guides and progress reports easily on any device – so that’s maths sorted! However, there are other devices that can help you manage your life around your studying available out there too.

Mobile Apps

Use mobile apps to set up study schedules, plan your sleeping patterns and track your goals, among other things. You can also download apps which block social media websites temporarily so you don’t get distracted (Like SelfControl or Cold Turkey) while you are supposed to be studying.

Sniff Rosemary

Traditionally associated with rememberance it seems that Rosemary can actually help your memory. A recent study found that students working in a room with the aroma of rosemary, in the form of an essential oil, scored 5% to 7% better results in memory tests. Wouldn't do any harm to dab some Rosemary oil on your collar before you go into your exam!

Listen To Classical Music

Listening to music can create really enhance your study environment by lifting your mood and studies have shown listening to music improves attention, memory, and even your ability to do mental maths. Classical music is thought to be the best, but anything relaxing or inspiring that won’t distract you or prompt you to sing along with your hairbrush will do.

Invest in a Fidget Device

If you are one of those people who can’t concentrate unless they’re fiddling with something, you could consider investing in a Fidget Cube or a similar product (the cubes are a little pricey) so you can fidget to your hearts content.



Hydrate!

Drink lots of water. People often underestimate how much hydration helps – your brain actually starts to dry out and shrink if you get even mildly dehydrated.

Eat Dark Chocolate and Oily Fish

This is actually true! Hurrah! Scarfing dark chocolate which is over 70% cocoa combats the stress hormone cortisol and releases endorphins which act as a natural stress barrier, while regular helpings of oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or kippers are good for the brain, particularly your memory.

Practise Aspects of Mindfulness

Make a little ritual of setting up your workspace at the beginning of the day, making sure it is uncluttered and start each session with a plan of what you are going to do that day. This helps your mind to be uncluttered and eliminates anxiety about planning.

As you clear your mind, think as your mind as a puppy, and like any puppy it tends to wander – that’s ok, that’s what brains need to do but today you need to concentrate. If you find it wandering to worries, projection and a million various distractions, don’t worry, just acknowledge the ‘thinking’ congratulate yourself for noticing your mind had gone ‘walkies’ label the thoughts ‘thinking’ and gently push them away.

While you are working if you begin to experience anxious thoughts, acknowledge them, silently label them with the word "thinking" too and then continue working. Being able to recall your wandering mind back to the present is the key to mindfulness. Every so often, take a few minutes to completely empty your mind and coach it in a simple mindfulness exercise. 

For example, every hour or so, take a moment to breathe in for seven beats, hold it for five and then breathe out for 11 beats. This will have a soothing effect on your brain and nervous system. You can do this more than once but stop if you feel dizzy or sleepy.

Posture

Now and then also become aware of your posture. This works better for some people than being mindful of their breathing but apart from anything else, being slumped at a desk for days is not good for your spine, neck, joints and internal organs.



Sit up straight (standing briefly is even better) and gently roll your neck to each side, and then down onto your chest while putting your shoulders back.

Body Scan

Another exercise, especially useful if you can’t stop your mind from wandering into worries and distractions, is to spend 10 - 15 mins doing what is called a body scan.

Lie down on something comfortable and try and make your whole body sink into the ground. Then you scan each and every part of your body by just focusing on each part in turn and slowly tuning into your body parts and becoming aware of any sensations, pressure, temperature – just becoming completely focused on your physical state of being.

Starting at the top of the head, working down the face and neck first. Then slowly move onto the shoulders, gently flexing and relaxing your muscles and becoming aware of the bed or mat beneath you. Take deep slow breaths and tune into the gentle rise and fall of your chest and abdomen.



If your ‘puppy’ mind wanders, just acknowledge this as ‘thinking’ and continue to concentrate on your own body and your breathing. Continue this process as slowly as you can until you reach your toes.

There are numerous audio files and Youtube videos available to talk you through this process more effectively, you can choose which one is right for you, just search YouTube for ‘body scan’. The exercise is designed to calm you down completely, notice and relax any tense muscles, and bring you to a more receptive mental state, ideal for revision. Just try not to fall asleep!

Ultimately remember to take time for yourself during your revision, and look after your body mind and spirit, otherwise you may end up burning out and we don’t want that to happen to anybody. Good luck everyone!

Special thanks to http://mindfulnessforstudents.co.uk/ -  a brilliant website with loads more tips and exercises for using mindfulness to combat academic and exam stress