Test Anxiety? How to Relax and Stay Focused

The end of the semester is drawing near and summer is right around the corner! The only thing standing between you and binging on Netflix at the beach is one thing: final exams. The week of finals is always stressful and can cause anxiety in many college students. Last week, we gave tips on how to stay organized and prep for finals. This time, we have some specific ways to get rid of that test anxiety in the hours leading up to your exams! Here are 9 ways to relax and reduce your stress right before you take that test.

1. Make sure you’re eating right. Too much caffeine, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and heavy preservatives right before your exam can make you tired and sluggish, and affect your memory negatively. Instead, opt for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other healthy snacks and meals for the hours leading up to the exam. And don’t go to the test on an empty stomach! Make sure you eat a good meal beforehand.

2. Get some sleep! This goes without saying, but it’s important to get enough sleep before an exam. Cramming for 12 hours straight is only going to make you more tired and groggy.

3. Stop working/studying at least 30 minutes before going to bed the night before the test. Put away your laptop and phone: the blue lights from these screens can mess with your sleep cycle and make it harder to sleep. You’ll feel more refreshed in the morning!

4. Take a bath with Epsom salts. Epsom salt has magnesium sulfate, which helps promote calmness and relaxation.

5. Try aromatherapy! Essential oils like lavender, lemon, bergamot, clary sage, and jasmine are great for relaxing those nerves and clearing your mind. There are several ways you can use essential oils:

  • Put a few drops in your bath or shower.
  • Use a diffuser so that the oils are diffused all through the room.
  • Apply it directly onto your body, such as around your temple or your wrist. Be careful when you do this because undiluted oils are very strong and can irritate the skin. Make sure you have essential oils that are diluted in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil.

6. Focus on your breathing. It may sound silly, but deep breathing exercises can really help calm your mind. When you’re stressed, you often take short, shallow breaths and are not getting proper oxygen amounts through your blood. The next time you feel anxious, stop and take a few moments to inhale and exhale deeply. Repeat this breathing exercise (or find some other ones here) several times until you feel more calm.

7. Stretching and yoga can actually help calm your mind by releasing tension that’s built up in your muscles. Take a few minutes the night before your exam and the day of to really stretch out your muscles. You can even try a few yoga poses suggested here!

8. Treat yourself! The day before the exam, go get something small or do a short activity that you find enjoyable. This could be a sweet treat, a walk around the park, or whatever will help you relax and feel special.

9. Think positive! This is sometimes easier said than done, but part of why you may be so stressed is because you keep thinking of the worst that could happen. Instead of psyching yourself out, try to stay positive and surround yourself with people who will cheer you up and keep you optimistic. Remember, it’s just one exam and it’ll be over soon!

How to De-Stress and Prep for Finals

We all know what typical college life looks like the week of final exams: tons of students holed up in the library till 3am with a double shot of espresso in one hand, and a textbook in the other. Final exams bring a feeling of instant fear and pressure to most college students, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Below is a list of ways to help you de-stress and prepare for that dreaded finals week. Just remember, summer is right around the corner!

Get organized!

Often, we don’t take time to organize our schedule and study time and it leaves us feeling rushed and panicked. Before finals week rolls around, take some time to organize your notes, create a schedule for studying and exams, and even put together some study groups and schedule meeting times. Finals will seem much less stressful when you’re organized and prepared!

Exercise, or spend time outside.

When we exercise, our bodies naturally release endorphins which help you calm down and defeat stress! Don’t stay isolated inside the whole time; fresh air can do wonders and clear your head.

Make sure you sleep!

A huge college cliche is pulling all-nighters to cram for exams. This is very unhealthy and leaves you feeling drained and unmotivated. Getting sleep actually helps solidify the material you’ve studied, and you’ll feel refreshed instead of stressed. Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night!

Find something that helps you clear your head.

This could be music, meditation, yoga, massages, herbal tea, or anything that helps calm you down and get out of the frenzied mindset. Take a break for just 10 minutes and do whatever you find relaxing.

Plan your meals!

When it comes to finals week, the last thing you’re thinking about is cooking. Usually, that means fast food for 3 meals a day! This will only make you feel more sluggish and have sugar crashes throughout the week (not to mention take a huge toll on your wallet). Instead, take some time in advance to meal prep. This could be as simple as making tons of sandwiches and setting aside baggies of fruit, vegetables, and chips to grab and go! It will bring you relief knowing your food is taken care of and you don’t have to spend money.

Stay hydrated!

Your brain works best when it is hydrated. If you haven’t had enough water, or you’ve had too much caffeine and sugary drinks, you’ll feel more and more tired and distracted. Get a reusable water bottle and keep it filled at all times!

Don’t procrastinate on other assignments.

Some classes have final projects or essays due around the same time as finals, but you have weeks (or even months) to complete those. Don’t wait until the last minute to finish those assignments, on top of studying for exams!

Use positive self-talk!

What is your attitude like during finals week? Are you constantly negative and put a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself to get perfect scores? Your mindset going into finals can be what’s stressing you out the most! Practice changing your attitude and using positive self-talk: it’s like having an optimistic voice in your head all the time, making you feel good and confident in yourself. There are actually studies that show that positive self-talk strengthens your performance and well-being!

Hopefully these tips can help you prepare for finals and not take as much anxiety with you. Always remember the bigger picture and what you’re working towards! It will all be worth it in the end!