How to Survive College: How to survive exam stress

I don’t know about you lot, but for me January means stress. Exam stress, to be exact. You see, Belgian universities have developed this glorious system where all throughout the winter break? You’re not partying. You’re not relaxing. In all probability, you can hardly even enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Instead, you get to be stuck behind your books. Oh Joy.

In my case, anything exams goes hand in hand with stress – and a lot of it. Not just because of exams, although that part is obvious, but also just because I’m a naturally stress-prone person. That basically means that any stress whatsoever sets of more general stress, which then, in turn, sets of all sorts of anxiety. Long story short: it usually ends up that I’m a wreck and get ill as soon as exams are done. Just because my body can’t take all the stress anymore.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried numerous ways and tricks to get rid of at least part of all that stress. And of course, I figured: why not share them with the rest of the world? Maybe they’ll be of some use to some of you!

1. Plan ahead

This one might seem pretty obvious, but I physically need to plan everything out or I go mad because I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. That can range from organising all my notes to going through all my manuals. And usually, I do try and get some studying in that plan as well 🙂

In general, I start out with some days to focus on making summaries, because just making those helps me learn the subject. Of course, if you have any papers due, you should probably start out with those, but that’s sort of self-explanatory, right? For more notes on this, be sure to check out my post on making a studying schedule!

Having a studying schedule isn’t just going to help you keep on track of what you’re supposed to do at what point, it’ll also give you something to hang on to. That extra little bit of security, you know? And especially during exams, I definitely need that!

2. Plan breaks

This probably could have been a part of the last point as well, but I cannot stress enough how important this is. If you do nothing but studying all the time, you’ll be an absolute wreck. Your brain needs the time to really take in everything it just went through, and your body needs the time to recuperate from studying. If nothing else, you’ve just been stuck in the same position for hours.

Also – your brain naturally doesn’t really want to focus on the same thing for too long, which also helps to explain why it’s so freaking hard to actually do that. Taking a break helps you be more focused after that brain (at least in general). So plan ahead – short breaks in between study sessions, an evening off, maybe even a day off!

3. Plan buffer days

There’s always going to be days where the studying is just not working out for you, and there’s nothing quite as stressful as that. That’s why I like to plan ahead and plan for some buffer days. Those are days where either you can catch up on work you didn’t get finished earlier, do some extra work if you feel like you didn’t manage to get enough time in, or even just do nothing. Because breaks are important, remember?

4. Figure out how you work best

For me, that changes constantly. Some days I need to sit at my desk, others on my bed or even in the sofa. Some days I prefer to have vlogs on in the background, other days I need absolute silence, but most often you can find me listening to the above list of instrumental music.Seriously, I don’t know what it is about those songs, but they just really help me to focus. And wasn’t there this entire theory about how classical music is supposed to make you concentrate better?

5. Eat healthy (but what you want)

In general: yes, try and eat healthy. Fuelling your body and all that rut.

That being said, if you’re absolutely craving something? Just have it – at this point, it’s honestly not worth the extra stress of trying to resist the temptation of food when you’re already trying to resist your phone, your laptop, and just generally anything that’s not studying!

6. Drink a lot

Try and make this water as often as you can (I try and go for at least 2l per day, but it can be quite a bit more than that on occasion). However, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s definitely a couple of cups of tea, a bit of hot cocoa and even the occasional glass of cola zero in there. No coffee though, but that’s because I absolutely hate the taste of it.

Also, if you drink too much caffeine, you’re body gets all hyped up which is really not good for your stress-levels.

7. Do something else every once in a while

That doesn’t just mean taking breaks. It means that sometimes I’ll be doing sit-ups while trying to learn something by heart (because somehow, that actually helps me study), or I’ll go for a walk, or I’ll watch a movie (planning on seeing Rogue One any day now!) or even just put on some crazy music and try and dance the stress away!(Also, if you got the reference of the name of that playlist: high five!)

8. Sleep. A lot.

Nothing better than sleeping to forget all about your stress, right.

Also, a personal trainer once told me that the order of importance to live healthy is: 3rd place: exercice, 2nd place: eat healthy, 1st place: sleep a lot.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if sleeping is that important, it probably means I should do some more of it, right?

9. Try and relax

Yes, I know that this is basically impossible. Especially when I feel like I haven’t done enough anywhere in the last 3 weeks and why did I wait with everything until now and how am I ever going to finish all this and I’m doomed!

Whether that means that you go for a run, take a nap or read a book (remember, do something else?). Also, I just recently discovered that apparently there’s these songs that were created with the specific purpose of reducing anxiety, slowing down your heart beat rate, and just in general making you nice and drowsy.

Me being me, of course I have an entire playlist of those. Because – seriously? At times that’s the only time I actually can get to sleep. Gotta love anxiety disorder!

10. Give yourself a break

And I don’t mean take a break. Sometimes, you’re going to be an absolute stress-filled mess, and although that might be difficult to believe while you’re lying on your bed contemplating why on earth you ever believed you could handle college when obviously you would’ve been better off just heading straight for MacDonalds? That’s actually okay. Take a big breath, wipe away your tears, and move on. After all, it’s the only thing you really can do.

‘Cuz those exam ain’t waiting for nobody!

Anyway, there you have it, that’s 10 of my tips to survive exam stress! If you have any more, be sure to let me know below (because I could probably use it :p )

-Saar