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!

Checklist for making the most of your college experience

Whether graduation seems forever away or approaching too soon, you want to make the most of your time in college! Here are some tips we put together for you on how to make the most of your college experience:

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  • Take advantage of tutoring opportunities
    If you’re struggling with math homework or an essay for an English class, most of the time there are free tutoring services that are provided by the school that can help you. There’s no use in passing up the service that your tuition already pays for. Looking at the other side of the coin, if you’re really good at a subject you can either volunteer or maybe even get paid to be a tutor. Either way, this will look good on your resume and it helps to reiterate the information back to you and you become more of an expert on the subject.
  • Find your study space
    Doing homework in your dorm or apartment is not the ideal place to stay focused. Your body and mind associate it with somewhere that you relax and hang out with friends. Search around the campus and you’re sure to find plenty of places to study and do homework. Sometimes departments will offer a space for students in their program to study and if you get lucky enough, they can give you free stuff that they don’t want like books or notebooks. If studying on campus isn’t something that you like, there are plenty of coffee shops that have wifi. Sometimes going out of your comfort zone can open doors to new places to study.
  • Save your course materials
    Saving all course materials can sound a bit intimidating considering the amount of work a student can accumulate over the years. The way to do this efficiently is to keep the most important documents. You can use this information for the harder classes that are relevant to the course you take at the beginning of your college career. Not only that, you can keep these items in case you need to create a portfolio when you’re a senior. Don’t have enough space on your computer? You can always store the files on a hard-drive. There are also applications that you can store information on the web.
  • Read over your credit requirements
    It’s very important to constantly be looking at the requirements for the major that you plan to pursue. Degree plans change all the time and it is important that you don’t take classes more than once or that you take unnecessary classes. This will save you time and money. Who knows, you could even graduate faster than anticipated.
  • Attend extracurricular lectures and seminars
    All colleges and universities invite guest speakers for students to learn more. This would be a key factor for students that want to learn more about a specific subject. Not only that, if professors see that you are taking initiative to learn more about a subject they can be more willing to help you out.
  • Talk to other students, professors, and alumni
    Talking to other people can seem scary (especially for us introverts) but it is a great way to network. If you talk to fellow classmates, you can help each other out in the class by comparing notes and studying together. This can help you in many different ways. Talking to professors more can also help your grade. If they see that you are trying they could give tips on how to better your work to get a higher score. Getting to know professors is also a very helpful technique to do because these are the people that can give you recommendation letters for graduate schools and future jobs. The alumni can also be very useful because they have already passed through the path that you are going through. They can help guide you and give insight on life once graduation is over.
  • Keep an open mind about new things
    Not letting yourself get tied down to just one thing will help you in the long run. Opening your mind can lead to taking classes that can open a new passion and maybe even become a hobby that can help relieve stress. It can also lead to meeting new people that can help network.
  • Get a college job in your desired career field
    Looking for a job is stressful enough as it is, but if you can find something that is related to your desired career, this can open doors for when you do graduate. Employers will be able to see that you have experience in the field and will want to choose you over people that don’t have the same experience.
  • Don’t just take an easy class, take interesting ones
    Students can get carried away by selecting easy classes because they want to boost their GPA but sometimes it isn’t the best choice. Instead of taking a boring class just because the assumption that it will be easier, taking an interesting class about something that is a bit out of your comfort zone can open your mind to something new and exciting that you can enjoy more than you think You can also find new friends in these classes and again open yourself up to more networking.
  • Have a “Plan B”
    Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. You should always have second and third options just in case your first choices are taken. No one knows what is in the path of life, so having a backup plan will help with anxiety that comes with not being able to choose a class of your liking or being a first choice.
  • Join extracurricular activities
    Although we all stress out about what classes to take and how good our grades need to be, we also need to make time for other things so you don’t stress yourself out. Joining a club or intramural sport can help in a lot of different ways. It can manage your stress, give you more confidence and make new friends. It can also teach you new things about yourself that you would have never known if you hadn’t joined a club.
  • Stay on budget
    Creating a budget can be very useful when living alone in a dorm or even with parents. Making sure that you have enough money to buy the basic necessities can be very helpful. This can help ease the stress when thinking about the financial part of school and allows you to focus on other things.
  • Know college benefits
    The tuition that you pay isn’t just the classes that you register for. There are many other benefits that the college or university have to offer their students. Ask your advisor to see what kind of benefits you’re missing out on. There can be very useful services out there that you never thought you would need.
  • Learn to combat stress
    Combating stress can be hard at times, but there are a few things that you can do to help you out. Taking time to self-care if very important, this means things like sleeping a sufficient amount of time, eating healthy foods. These can all help your body and mind run more smooth. Doing assignments one step at a time can also help with combating stress. Even talking with an advisor can help relieve some of the pressure that we put on ourselves. Take a moment to take a deep breath.
  • Use office hours
    As stated previously, it is important to get to know your professors. Using office hours shows the professors that you are interested in learning about the subject and that you are dedicated to getting a good grade. This can open doors so that they can write recommendation letters in the future when applying for jobs or graduate school.
  • Have fun!
    One of the most important things is to have fun in school. Having fun can be easily forgotten when you’re worried about grades but school can also be fun if you let it be.