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My Name Is Lori and I Hate Exams!

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My name is Lori and I hate exams. Most of the time I get so anxious about an exam that I avoid studying. I can’t think about it, I avoid conversations about homework because the thought of tests puts my stomach in knots. The night before my last exam, I tried to make myself study. I opened and closed my books continuously. By 11:00pm, I finally forced myself to keep the books open. I thought I was going to throw up. Finally, at 3:00am I turned off my light. The exam was at 8:30am the next morning. (1)”
Besides a family breakdown, young adults name exam stress as the second greatest demand on their physical, and emotional well-being. For months and even years, the importance of exams is imprinted on  their minds, causing stress levels to increase as the exam date approaches. 
 In 2005, an Ipsos Reid study (2) reported “when it comes to exams, all students are stressed and many experience a lot of stress.” The study showed that no students were stress free and 47% of students in Ontario experienced very high levels of stress. The respondents to the study cited these three main reasons for the high levels of stress. Too many exams to study for. Pressure to do well. Balancing study with other responsibilities. 
This may come as a shock to many students (my daughters included), but stress does not have to consume your life!  Coping with the stress of exams starts with recognizing the symptoms. If you’ve lost your motivation, energy or concentration, if you feel panicked, worried or guilty, consider these tips to keep stress at a minimum during these final weeks of your school term.
 Simply Say ‘No’.  You can say ‘no’ to watching a movie with your friend, the party next Saturday night, or any other distraction that eats away your study time.  ‘No’ is as valid an answer as ‘yes’. If you clearly define your boundaries your stress about the exam will decrease as your confidence to write it increases.
 Stay Healthy.  Studying often requires long days at the library where there is no fresh air, few food choices and a whole lot of sitting around.  Take snacks of fresh foods and vegetables to fuel your brain, take a 15 minute breath of fresh air every couple hours. Consider limiting your caffeine consumption as it increases heart rate which can increase anxiety about exams and disturb your sleeping patterns.
 Avoid Stressed-Out People.  Resist the urge to study with ‘drama queens or super-intense’ friends.  Whether you realize it or not, stress can be contagious and you likely don’t need their stress contributing to your own. 
 Make A Plan and Stick to It. For most universities, there is roughly two more weeks of classes then exams start.  Why not take the time now to develop an exam calendar.  Schedule study periods, rest periods and free time.  Making a plan helps to organize your thoughts and days, and helps to alleviate last minute juggling of priorities which contributes to stress.  
 Finally……Think Good Thoughts About Yourself.  Think about passing, not failing.  See yourself knowing the answers and completing the test with confidence.  Obviously you had the intelligence to get into university in the first place, with hard work and right focus you can make it through the exams!
(1) Case information printed with permission.  Name has been changed fro privacy purposes.  
(2) Canadian University Students On Study Habits And Exam-Related Stress, Ipsos Reid, April 2005.

Author: Elaine Olson

Elaine effectively counsels in the area of marriage and family, with specialization in anxiety and stress, decision-making and young adult concerns. Elaine uses a variety of counseling therapies to meet the specific needs of each client. Her insightful approach to life challenges the three-part makeup of humanity, to ensure total wellness, physically, mentally/emotionally and spiritually. She is a strong advocate for women, taking a lead role to pioneer many innovative support programs for women around the world.

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