How to turn negative stress into positive pressure

Some people naturally work better under a bit of pressure, whereas others need plenty of time to get the best out of themselves.

Even if you’re a deadline thrill seeker, there can be a fine line between that having a positive influence on your studies and causing undue amounts of stress for yourself by leaving things until the last minute. How can you make sure you’re creating positive pressure for yourself and not negative stress?

Make it smaller

Natasha Payce finished her advanced diploma in December, passing with distinction. She gives some great advice about breaking your revision down into more manageable chunks to avoid stress caused by overwhelm.

“With an exam approaching and knowing that there is a lot of work to be done can become quite overwhelming and very stressful. I find it helps to break everything down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Instead of thinking, ‘I have this whole unit of content to cover and practise questions, revision and mocks within the next four weeks’, I will set smaller targets.

For example, ‘this week I want to finish the chapter I’m on’, or even smaller than that, I say to myself, ‘today I will do four exam questions.’ Acknowledging the little achievements make the bigger tasks seem much more achievable, and my mindset moves from a place of stress to motivating pressure.”

Give yourself a break

No one expects you to be perfect, and you don’t need to set those expectations of yourself either.

Katherine Packer is resitting advanced level synoptics for the third (and hopefully last) time after getting 66% the first time and the second time having trouble uploading one of the tasks in her exam. She has started her professional diploma and is three exams into it.

“I had to learn to let go of self-imposed idealistic goals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having high standards, and I started the advanced qualification wanting to be one of the people who got all distinctions, but I quickly found out that it wasn’t going to happen like that for me. I passed my first four exams, but the first one’s result was 71%, but I was buzzing just to have passed when it came through on the website. I try very hard on all of my exams, but I’m just not someone who performs well under exam pressure, and I had to realise that that’s ok too.”

Plan for positivity

Making sure you leave yourself plenty of time is a great way to improve your exam confidence.

Lee Joinson is an Accounts Assistant who finished his advanced diploma last year and is now studying for his professional diploma.

“I think some negative stress can be avoided if you put a plan in place to avoid getting it to that point. Create a study plan, but make sure you also set yourself some free time for solitude. Solitude is important to allow your mind to process and absorb its thoughts (i.e. what you’ve just learned). I would advise anyone studying AAT to revise in small increments rather than large bouts, especially when close to the exam.

Your brain will absorb the information better, and you will feel less burned out. If you do this with plenty of time before the exam, the stress should significantly reduce, and after a few weeks, you’ll feel more confident in tackling the exam as the knowledge will have absorbed better. Make sure you reward yourself for your little bouts of revision too.”

Practice a positive mindset and create healthy habits

Martin Brooks MAAT is an AAT Licensed Accountant running Gold Stag Accounts who specialise in small business and freelance accounts.

“I try not to let stress be stress, and I think that’s down to having a positive outlook. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days, but there’s no point in worrying about things out of my control. We have 150+ clients, all with their own needs and problems, so it could be very easy to feel stressed, but I’ve always been pretty laidback.

Setting deadlines, having clear boundaries and managing people’s expectations enables me to crack on with a clear head and turn stress into positive pressure. I find getting early nights, going out for walks with the family, running and having set working hours enables me to achieve the right balance to do this.”

You don’t have to be a born optimist; you can teach yourself a positive mindset with practice, and surrounding yourself with other positive people will help.

10 top tips on turning negative stress into positive pressure

  1. Work out what causes your stress
  2. Talk to someone
  3. Plan ahead
  4. Split large tasks into lots of smaller tasks
  5. Just focus on today to avoid overwhelm
  6. Reward yourself for little achievements
  7. Let go of self-imposed idealistic goals
  8. Focus on your why
  9. Practice a positive mindset and being grateful
  10. Surround yourself with positive people who are a good influence on you.

Further reading

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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