The one thing to help you manage exam stress

I honestly believe exam stress is one of the worst kinds of stress we experience because there’s no way to avoid the pending exam, and nobody teaches us how to deal with the stress effectively. 

This leads to a whole spectrum of symptoms. From the mild headaches, worry and doubt, procrastination, feeling moody or being more susceptible to colds. To the more extreme, insomnia, depression, shaking, excess sweating, ears ringing or rapid heart rate and chest pains.

Wherever you are on this scale right now, you can ease the intensity of how you’re feeling by doing one really simple thing.

Step outside and smile for 17 seconds.

I know it sounds bonkers, but doing this is scientifically proven to reduce stress and make you happier instantly.

Why it works

The reason this simple technique is so powerful is 3-fold:

1. Getting out of your current environment can be enough to break the pattern of worrisome thoughts.

2. Fresh air and daylight on our skin re-energises our bodies.

3. Holding a smile for 17 seconds kick-starts chemical reactions in your brain that alter your mood, release positive hormones and make you feel better.

The science behind a smile

In the late 80s, psychologist Robert Zajonc published a study that showed the emotional effects of creating different face shapes through sounding out different vowels.

He asked his subjects to produce different vowel sound such as a long ‘e’ or short ‘o’. When participants made the long ‘e’ sound and their face resembled a smile, their mood improved.

Since Zajonc’s study there have been many others that give evidence to the psychological benefits of producing a fake smile long enough to turn into a genuine smile.

Some bonus tips

1. Be sure to really go for the smile! Smile with your mouth and your eyes. A limp ‘social smile’ (you know the ones you give when you don’t really mean it) won’t work as well.

2. If you’re struggling, think of something that makes you smile or laugh. Maybe a funny memory or joke will help you crack a smile.

3. Get someone else to smile in front of you and hold eye contact. We’re hardwired to mimic and respond to other human beings, and you won’t be able to help yourself smiling.

4. If you can, laugh! Take the Duchenne smile further and find something to laugh about – as laughter continues to increase the release of ‘happy hormones’. Watching some comedy, or even someone else laughing is enough to get the giggles.

Read more on taking control of your stress;

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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