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How To Deal With Stress During Exams

Written by Bradley Pines

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Exams and stress. Name a more sinister duo. Kylo Ren and Emperor Snoke? Two-Face and The Joker? Thanos and Lady Death?

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading into your first year or your final year: stress is inevitable.

This is how it typically goes:

You get an email announcing exam schedules…

You open the email and hold your breath…


Of course, you have 5 exams in 4 days…

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Your heart starts beating. You’re feel nauseous. You panic.

That, my friends, is what we call stress. And it happens to all of us, whether we like it or not. According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, 90% of Canadian university students said they feel pressured and/or overwhelmed during exam periods.

Post-secondary by design is stressful. And peak stress times happen to be during exam periods. Shocker, right? Many students face multiple exams in a short amount of days. When the workload piles up, it creates enormous amounts of stress. And at times, it can feel hard to escape. For many students, this can lead to panic/anxiety attacks.

During these periods, students should feel calm, cool, and collected. Easier said than done, right? How can we cope with stress during these intense times?

Let me start by saying that there’s no one way to deal with stress.

Everyone deals with stress in their own way. Everyone is different and will find better mechanisms for them over others. By starting early, staying organized, and taking breaks, students will realize that stress definitely can be controlled.

Here are 8 amazing strategies to help students cope with stress during exam periods:

1. Stop Putting It Off

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Starting early is one of the biggest struggles college/university students have, and is a huge factor for stress during exam times. Why? Like you don’t already know. Procrastination! An article by The Guardian shows that over 70% of students procrastinate. By starting early, you can have more time to space out your studying and feel calmer throughout the process, rather than cramming the night before.

2. Put It In Your Calendar

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Staying organized will for sure help de-stress you. The Huffington Post declares that when we have chaotic surroundings or a fragmented mindset, the brain perceives there is more demand for energy than our current capacity, which in turn triggers stress. Creating a schedule of what your study week could potentially look like will help ease your mind. It will help keep you organized, create goals, and space out your studying.

3. Prepare Yourself, DON’T Compare Yourself

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We all do it. Yet, comparing yourself will stress you out even more. Psychology Today states that college mental health experts have found strong correlation between student’s stress and social comparison. Your friend might know pretty much everything after a day or two of studying and you need more time. That is ok, don’t worry! If you focus too much on what other people know, you won’t have time to know the information yourself. That will stress you out even more. Study how you need to study and you will succeed.


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Sleep deprivation common among college/university students during exams. Pulling all-nighters, going to bed super late, and waking up super early are big  contributors to stress. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that poor sleep quality affects academic performance and daytime functioning. And students who pull all nighters are more likely to have lower GPAs. I know it can be challenging to sleep with so much on your mind. Take a deep breath, and try to sleep. In the long run, it will really benefit you.

5. Work Out Your Body And Your Mind

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I know, I know.  Exercising sucks and is the last thing on your mind when you’re disoriented. However, exercising is extremely important during stressful times, and can also be used as a break during studying. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise is vital to maintaining mental fitness just as much as physical fitness and can help reduce stress. Regular physical activity has been shown to decreases tension, enhance mood, and improve sleep and overall self-esteem. All these contribute to less stress, and can help clear your mind during the worst time of the year…exams.

6. Walk Away From Your Problems

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So if you really hate exercising or don’t have the time or energy to do a full on workout, than just take a walk. Walking is a great break and doesn’t take any effort at all. Leave your desk, take a walk and clear your head. According to an article by The Huffington Post, walking will boost endorphins, which can reduce stress hormones. But make sure you walk away from your studies. Avoid walking around the library or near your notes. You will just continue to worry seeing the work you aren’t doing at that moment.

7. Tune Out The Noise

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This is a personal favourite. Music has always been a great way for me to de-stress and it definitely can work for you too. Whether it’s taking a break to listen, or listening while you work, both are equally beneficial. Psych Central states that listening to music has tremendous amounts of relaxing effects on our minds and bodies. It slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and decreases levels of stress hormones. Classical music is one of the best genres to listen to while studying. I listen to the soundtrack of Chopin’s Nocturnes. Listen to it here. It is calm, quiet, and a great de-stressor. For all those “classical music is boring” people, trust me. Give it a try, it will really help.

8. Talk It Out

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Sometimes the the best way to de-stress is to talk it out. Often, people keep their negative emotions inside of them, which leads to… you guessed it: more stress. Talking is a great way to cope because most people know what you are going through. Talk with a friend, family member, or even a professional. Psychology Today suggests that talking can help shed light on your problems and brainstorming with another person will allow you find new ways to help you move forward. Try to not overwhelm yourself by thinking about all the stress when you talk about it. You will just continue to stress. Stay calm, talk it out, and find help and strategies amongst the people that care for you.

Stress is inevitable. However finding ways to deal with stress is the best thing one can do to try and overcome it as much as possible. Although 8 strategies were provided, everyone is different. There are so many variations of these strategies and other ways that can help. Stress doesn’t automatically go away and will take time. However, the number one strategy to help with every other coping mechanism is to BREATHE!

Okay, maybe not exactly like that. Take a deep breath, and slowly repeat the process. Try one of the strategies I’ve suggested. Or try them all. Something will for sure stick. Just go with it.

As college/university students, there is no escaping exams. Which means there is definitely no escaping the stress that comes with them.

Breathe, anticipate challenges, and get organized. When exams inevitably come around, you’ll be much better prepared to stay focused on getting those A’s.


Just in time for summer!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.