Busting exam stress with technology 💻

This blogpost has been written by Jeffrey Clark, Student Digital Champion

Banner with Student Digital Champion

That sinking feeling…

With exams around the corner, there’s no doubt that you’re all feeling the pressure. Sometimes that pressure can be overwhelming and lead to periods of high stress and anxiety. No student should have to feel like that! In this blogpost, I’ll go over some tips and useful apps that can help you and other students tackle stress during this difficult period.

Striking a balance ⚖

Here is an example of how I would organize a typical revision weekday using Microsoft Teams

It is perfectly normal to feel mild to moderate levels of stress during your time at university. There is a lot going on! From reading and writing essays to hanging out with friends, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times. Even if you really enjoy your degree, it can still be stressful trying to find the time to manage all your modules. That is why I recommend managing your time and controlling your routine rather than letting it control you. Apps like Microsoft To-Do have been incredibly helpful to me since I’m always on-the-go. Microsoft-To-Do is a free cloud-based task management app available for desktops, Androids and Apple devices. The app contains some useful features for keeping you on track such as a customizable calendar and reminders that can be arranged in any order you desire.

Microsoft Teams also features an incredibly customizable calendar that is useful for scheduling meetings as well as keeping you up to date with your university task. Managing your time reduces stress by minimizing unpredictability and giving you the ability to work WITH deadlines as opposed to AGAINST them. Another good tip to reduce exam stress is to focus on one thing at a time. Whilst revising, focus your attention on just one of your modules a day, if you can. This makes it easier to retain information on the module that you’re studying which will make taking an exam all that easier. If you must study multiple modules, make sure you give yourself a meaningful break during your studies. Taking a break is important while studying for any amount of time. Incorporating breaks into your schedule is key to reducing stress and avoiding ‘burnout’, which we will discuss in greater detail later in this post.

What’s eating you?

The Day One App

Exams and assignments are among the most stressful aspects of student life, but it’s important to ask yourself ‘why?’ Certain aspects of an exam or assignment are the main factors that lead to stress and anxiety. It could be the deadline of an exam, an unfamiliarity with the material, or something going on in your personal life. These are called triggers, which are events that lead to a negative emotional response. When you experience something that upsets you or makes you angry, write it down. I recommend the journaling app Day One, which is available on Android and iOS. The app has a simple and intuitive user interface which allows you to customize your digital journal however you see fit. Using Day One, I keep a digital journal to keep an eye on my mental health in order to avoid mental fatigue and burnout. In it, I write down how I felt over the course of a day and highlight the day’s stressful events with a note on how I dealt with those events. Don’t worry if you can’t think of them all straight away, sometimes new triggers develop over time as you explore new topics as a student or take on new types of work. If something new begins to bother you, write it down. You do not have to manage it all on your own either. Speaking to friends, colleagues, your lecturers and your personal tutor can be useful in managing stress. Remember, help at Aberystwyth University is always right around the corner, and I’ve highlighted the available support at the bottom of this blogpost.

General tips to manage stress

It may feel like the battle to combat stress is a never-ending one, but with some good techniques to manage it, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Now that you have your stress triggers written down, you can decide how to deal with them. It is important to try different ways of handling stressful situations as it’s not an exact science, and some situations may require different methods. Mantracare.com have a ton of examples of coping methods but it’s not fool proof, I recommend finding a method that works for you. Some people will find talking to friends and family helpful in reducing stress while others will find meditation helpful. Keep trying methods until you find your comfort zone!

Avoiding burnout

Visualize stress as though it were a balloon. If you put too much air into a balloon it will pop. Similarly, if you become overwhelmed with stress, you may experience burnout, where you experience feelings of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion (NHS). The best way to avoid burnout is to manage your stress and most importantly don’t overdo it! As a chronic ‘workaholic’ I personally find it very difficult to take a break, sometimes I find myself typing away as if I’m on autopilot. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I’m overdoing it and making things worse for my mental health. For that reason, I’ve installed the Free Meditation – Take a Break app (available on Android and iOS devices) for when I need to recharge during my break. The app features several professionally designed meditation courses and you can pick a meditation course that best suits your needs. For example, I do a 5-minute guided meditation during a 15-minute break from work in order to refresh my mind.

A woman working at a computer with her hands on her head.

It’s easy to feel like you aren’t studying enough and that by doubling the amount of time you study you’ll ace the exam. However, over-studying can be just as damaging to your exam results as under-studying. The best way to recognize when it’s time to pack up your books for the day is to pay attention to your physical responses. Are you yawning? Rubbing your eyes? These are signs of fatigue, and it is your brain’s way of telling your body that it’s had enough. It’s important not to overdo your studying and to rest when you feel tired. That way you’ll be able to take in more from your study sessions by studying on a well-rested brain as opposed to a tired one.

Further support at Aberystwyth University 💬

There are many services at Aberystwyth University to help students manage stress and get the best possible experience out of their studies. You are not alone.

Student receiving one to one support from a member of staff