How to deal with anxiety


In schools, we are bombarded with exams and tests. It can range from small weekly tests – which teachers use to track our progress – to end of year official examinations which count towards our final grades. The most common and understandable feeling that most students experience is anxiety. Feeling anxious is very unpleasant and that troubling “butterflies in my stomach” feeling can last for days.

From tutoring, I’ve realized that all students – irrespective of their year group – feel nervous when tests and exams are mentioned to them. I’ve heard “I’m scared I won’t do well”, “what if I don’t get the grade I want?” and the oh-so classic – “I’m not ready for this.” For some, the tension and pressure pushes them to work harder and smarter. However for others, they are crippled and can’t revise for long. Anxiety is inevitable for students and it’s important that we’re able to deal and maintain our anxiety so that it does conflict with our revision.

So, without any further ado, here are a few tips to help you deal with exam stress and anxiety:

1) Anxiety is completely normal! – Anxiety is a biological response innate within all of us. You are not the only student in the United Kingdom that feels like this. There are many anxious students in your class – even those students with stern poker faces are bound to feel stressed out too!

2) Abandon the negative thinking and over exaggerating – Perhaps you feel anxious because previously, you haven’t done so well in class. You tell yourself “everything goes wrong for me”. We tend to exaggerate our faults and weak points and overlook what we are good at.

Acknowledge compliments and don’t ignore the positivity: cast your mind back to a time when you were praised for a piece of work you done or for a grade you got. Muhammad Ali once famously said “It’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.” Recognize that you are capable of acing this exam. You did well back then and you can do just as well right now.

3) Don’t let your thoughts be plagued by remembering bad grades- This is perhaps where most anxiety roots from. Some tutees are forever reminiscing over a bad grade. This is a stimulus which will bring about that feeling of uneasiness and fear. Once again, ignore the negative thought and look beyond it. Get feedback from your teachers on how you can improve and look at that bad grade as an area of improvement. This grade does not define you and it certainly doesn’t measure how bright you are.

4) Be kind to yourself – Yes, as cheesy as this sounds, it is really important that you are easygoing with yourself. I remember being told by my English teacher that anxiety develops when I “overestimate the danger and underestimate my ability to cope”. He also said that the way we speak to ourselves (in such an unforgiving and belittling manner) is not the same way we would speak to someone else. We are way too hard on ourselves sometimes and we underestimate our ability to perform well. It’s so important that you’re kind and gentle to yourself.

5) Distract yourself – Pick up a sport or an extracurricular activity. It relieves stress and helps you step back from an anxious situation. Alternatively, going out with family and/or friends is a great stress reliever.

6) Talk it out – Speak to someone you feel comfortable with. Just talking to someone really helps ease the anxiety since you get it off your chest.

Right now, this period of stress may seem to have no end. However, keep strong. Channel that anxiety into something productive and don’t be weighed down by negative thoughts. You’ll be okay.