What can I do to manage stress and anxiety while studying?

Levels of stress and anxiety have shot up since the pandemic began. Combine this with the strain of studying and these tensions can feel a lot worse.

Here are some tips that may help alleviate stress and anxiety 

Create a non-stressful studying environment 

Of course, revision is overwhelming. Try tackling it in 30- to 40-minute chunks, making sure you take short 10-minute breaks for a drink (hydration works wonders for concentration) or fresh air in the garden/park afterwards. 

Breathe…  

If you feel swamped by studying, or it’s the morning of the assessment, a good breathing technique can instantly put you in a more relaxed state by sending oxygen surging through your body and lowering stress hormone cortisol. 

Want to de-stress yourself in less than a minute? Try breathing in through your nose for four seconds, holding for two seconds, then breathing out through your mouth for six seconds. Repeat this 10 times. You could also download meditation apps such as Headspace (headspace.com), which offer similar breathing exercises. 

Speak with others 

You won’t be the only one nervous about exams. If you feel anxious or nervy, try telling others on your course about what’s concerning you – is it a tricky part of the synoptic? Or not having enough time to revise? In the past, AAT students have dealt with this by setting up WhatsApp study groups or weekly Zoom get-togethers to share experiences. There are also AAT Facebook forums to discuss whatever you’re stuck on. And if you see fellow students posting photos of themselves acing revision on Instagram, ignore it. They are probably feeling just as fretful as you are. 

If you feel your anxiety spiralling, speak with your employer, tutor or training provider, who can signpost you to professional help. 

Some lifestyle hacks 

Yes, we all know about the importance of exercise, good nutrition and sleep. But when we’re stressed with a terrifying assessment coming up, it can be hard to find time to do these things. Just spending 30 minutes walking a day can reduce stress levels (more intensive workouts are better though). Cooking a veggie-laden dinner from scratch is not only healthier but more therapeutic than grabbing a takeaway, while even short 20-minute naps have been proven to boost productivity. 

Help for exam days 

After getting a good night’s sleep and ensuring you’ve packed some water to stay hydrated, allow yourself to get ready in plenty of time, planning your journey in advance (getting stuck in traffic may send your anxiety soaring). Try to reframe any nerves as excitement, by telling yourself: “I am excited” (search “anxiety reappraisal” for more on this). You don’t have to be a mindfulness maestro, but even sitting quietly for 10 minutes before the exam begins can be a great way to alleviate stress. 

If it all gets too much 

As tennis player Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles showed last year, it’s okay to say “no” and take a break for your mental health if you feel overwhelmed. If you’d like to postpone your assessment or take a pause in your studies, AAT can accommodate this.   

Further reading:

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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