Making exam stress a thing of the past
By Annabel Benton and Erin Botten
University exam season is approaching. Whether you’ve got exams, essays or reports on the horizon, preparing is a must. It can be hard to juggle student life with deadlines whilst looking after yourself and avoiding burnout. Most struggle under intense pressure to perform well. The Mancunion has compiled the best ways to minimise stress and maximise your time during exam season. Looking after yourself is always the best route to happiness.
The first step to getting on top of things is a plan, and Notion is the perfect digital solution. As both an app and a website, Notion allows you to completely plan your day, with options to create a calendar, to-do list and goal pages. It’s free to download and is a great option for students who want to cut down on bulky notes and organise digitally.
It’s also a brilliant way to keep track of other parts of your life. The app also includes customisable journals and habit tracker pages, giving you everything you’d get from a fancy bullet journal.
Finally, Notion can be used for more academic purposes. It can fully compartmentalise timings, reading lists and collections of anything you wish to save.
Tidy space, tidy mind
It’s no secret that we’re more inclined to be productive when our space is clean. A cluttered space instantly distracts concentration. So, before the revision even starts, begin your preparations by spring cleaning your study space.
Hoover, dust and organise. Searching for notes amongst dirty clothes and takeaway boxes isn’t going to motivate anyone. A bit of a spring clean may give you the boost you need to get started on the work you’ve been procrastinating.
You can check out The Mancunion‘s guide to student room design, where you can find tips on where to go to find handy storage solutions for decluttering your space. Making your environment relaxing is also a great plan for exam season when a calming room will mean you can retreat from the chaos of work into somewhere which looks, smells and feels amazing.
Another app to consider for increasing your productivity is Forest. Our phones can often be the biggest barrier to getting work done, with endless apps available for a mindless scroll whilst procrastinating.
Forest combats our phone obsession by getting users to plant a tree for a set period of time, which dies if you leave the app. Users create forests and buy new trees through their productive hours, with the option to plant real trees if you save up enough coins.
If you don’t want to invest in an app for your phone, Apple’s do not disturb will work in a similar fashion. If you find yourself equally distracted by Netflix from getting that reading done, there’s also a laptop equivalent to Forest called SelfControl.
Make a schedule
Before you begin working, a schedule is a must for breaking down looming deadlines and adding breaks. One way to do this is to make a big list of everything you need to cover and divide your list into attainable and realistic tasks. This allows you to fit everything you want to get done into the time you have left whilst motivating you to start ticking off those goals.
It’s also a great way to make time for breaks and other commitments, such as any lectures, society socials or paid work. Productivity guilt is a common issue for students during exam season. Scheduling your time allows you to see friends, exercise and get involved in societies without feeling as though you have to be studying. Google Calendar is a straightforward app for this.
Keep it varied
Once you get into your revision or writing your deadlines it’s important to keep things varied so that your mind remains focused. One way to do this is by following the popular Pomodoro method: spend 25 minutes working followed by a five-minute break. These timings can be repeated for as long as needed, with each 25-minute block used for something different to keep things mixed.
It’s a good idea to keep variation in the spaces where you revise, such as in different areas of your house or out and about in coffee shops (see our best study cafe recommendations guide). You may prefer to increase your productivity by studying in the University libraries surrounded by other students, and you could move to a different space each hour to keep things fresh.
But, don’t forget to take breaks – a brief walk can be a quick solution to a mental block!
Snacks are the way to our hearts and our minds. We all know it’s hard to concentrate when you’re hungry, but eating the right things is something we usually forget. Chocolate, pot noodles and meal deals can be filling, but they only give a short burst of energy. After a while, you can feel a bit gross.
In fact, consuming goods high in sugar can increase your sense of stress, making you burn out much quicker. To avoid a mood/energy crash, aim for foods that are healthy and brain-boosting. Or, just mix up your snack options.
Nuts, dark chocolate and berries are known to help with brain activity – all of which can be found in Morrisons and Lidl. They can also boost your energy, along with bananas, watermelons and dry fruit. If you’re wanting something a little more chewy, natural or energy bars are the way to go.
Instead of downing a coffee every hour and getting the shits, innocent smoothies are a great substitute. They have sour shots, energisers and thicker smoothies packed with vitamins. Admittedly they’re a little pricey, but Lidl does a good substitute for £1.59.
Studying mostly involves staring at a screen or book for an excessively long period of time. Not only does that strain our eyes, but it can lead to headaches. Most of us take a break by scrolling through our phones for a while. Although it may elevate stress temporarily, it’s still overstimulating our minds.
Digital breaks are essential in order for a proper break. You need to leave your study environment and step away from what you were doing. It’s a period of reset.
Some easy ways to do this are doing quick chores. Hoover your room, reorganise your study space, do the dishes, maybe even meal prep. You’ll be grateful not to be staring at your study notes and unconsciously be doing something active and productive.
Going for a walk without your headphones or phone can be a quick but really effective option too. It almost lifts a weight off your shoulders and freshens your mind. Go with a friend, grab some food, or venture around the park. Being out of the house helps clear your mind and start your next study session afresh.
The final tip to success is making space for relaxation and unwinding from stress, with a work-life balance being key during times of intense studying. Exercise, even if it is just a short walk, is an easy way to release endorphins.
Additionally, yoga and meditation are perfect for reducing worries and connecting with yourself.
Subscriptions to apps such as Calm are great for meditation. Although, there are unlimited free options for free yoga and meditation on YouTube. The popular channel Yoga with Adriene is a good place to start.
Keeping your body well fulled and drinking lots of water is a simple way to boost your mind and body, yet these simple steps are often overlooked during times of stress. Get lots of sleep, take your vitamins and be kind to yourself: the work will get done and it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of our happiness.