Dealing with Exam Stress

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Morgan’s Top Tips on how to manage “Exam Stress”

    Most people will suffer from some shape or form of “Exam Stress” in their life, and for many of you this will probably start happening over the next few weeks as the dreaded exam season draws ever closer. Whether it be the controversial Junior Cert, Leaving Cert, Final College exams or for some it may even be the summer exams, this time has proven to be very tough of the majority of us. What many of us fail to understand is that exam stress can present with both physical and mental symptoms and by the time we realise what is happening it can be harder to get the problem under control. If we can recognise the problem from the offset it can be easily treated and even prevented often by just visiting your pharmacist. Bearing this in mind I must also mention that some stress is normal and we do need a certain amount of stress to stop us becoming too laid back and not studying for these exams. So here are a few tips I feel may be useful:

  • Maintaining your overall Health: Eat regular, balanced meals with plenty of fruit, veg and slow releasing energy to keep a steady supply of energy to your body. (An example is wholegrain bread)
  • Get enough sleep: 8 hours per night is the recommended amount of sleep needed. Insomnia can often be triggered by exam stress. to try aid a better nights sleep try getting some light exercise during the day and a nice warm shower/bath before bed to help you relax. Do not use alcohol to relax as this can actually interfere with sleep making the whole situation worse.
  • Do not study in bed: From talking to many students this is one bad habit I find most students have as they feel that every last minute of study is crucial. However, by studying in bed you are causing your brain to become over-stimulated just before you try to sleep which can cause you to become restless during the night or even find it hard to fall asleep in the first place.
  • Listen to your body: If you are the “last minute cramming” kind of student listen to your body and rest when you need to, otherwise you are risking a burn-out!
  • Cut back on Caffeine: Try to cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume (which is a huge amount for most students) as caffeine can cause heart palpitations and bring on panic attacks. If you feel you need caffeine to stay awake your body is telling you it needs sleep, so you should allow your body to rest. Sometimes you can feel sleepy due to warm stuffy rooms, so some fresh air should stop that false sleepy feeling and also promote a good nights sleep that night.
  • Muscular and Joint Discomfort: When studying it is important to maintain a straight posture that supports your body i.e no slouching over the desk or crossing your legs. Do not stay in the same position for a prolonged period of time, go for a short walk or even do a few stretches to promote good blood circulation.
  • Headaches: Ensure you drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration which can often present itself as a headache. The recommended water intake for an adult is roughly 2-3 litres per day. Another type of headache which is very common during the exam season is “tension headache”. This presents as a pain in the neck which stretches up into the back of the head. Your pharmacist will be able to identify what type of headache you have and can recommend an OTC treatment. Students who wear glasses/contacts should be extra careful not to strain their eyes when studying which can also present as a headache.
  • Stomach Upsets: Stress/Anxiety of exams often presents as stomach upsets in many cases. Symptoms can be quite different from one person to another such as diarrhoea, discomfort, constipation, nausea or vomiting. All of these can be easily treated by the Pharmacist with OTC products.

If you are in doubt about any of these symptoms please consult your pharmacist who is always available without an appointment to help you treat these symptoms with OTC medicines and practical advice.

Stress can prevent you from doing your best so if you are struggling just ask for help!! The exam results do not define who you are as a human being or your abilities. So keep calm and speak to your pharmacist :) More info on your Mental Health can be found on www.spunout.ie and www.hse.ie. Best Of Luck :)

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