Feeling overwhelmed? Manage your stress like a pro!

Feeling overwhelmed? Manage your stress like a pro!

With just a fleeting time to go before exams start, you may notice that the pressure which used to keep you focused is now causing you undue stress. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety during exam time:

Dos and Don’ts During Exams

  1. Clear Your Desk and Study Area

The more cluttered your workspace, the less you can concentrate on studying for your exams. Stress is caused because physical clutter overworks your brain and weakens your ability to think.

Clear as much clutter as you can around your workstation. Get rid of everything that doesn’t need to be there, e.g. photos, snacks, staplers. The only items you should have on your desk are the utensils and books you need to study what you have set out on your study timetable.

At the end of each day, take 5 minutes to clear everything away so that you can start again tomorrow with an uncluttered desk and an uncluttered mind.

  1. Read Something for Pleasure

Research by cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis has proven that leisure reading – even only for six minutes - can reduce stress by up to 68% by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles.

  1. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Research shows that the more your sugar intake spikes, the more cortisol – a stress hormone - your adrenal glands release and the more stressed you’ll feel.


  • Skip breakfast.
  • Eat sugary cereals, sweet pastries, or chocolates.
  • Drink sugary drinks.


  • Eat a breakfast high in protein such as eggs, peanut butter, oats, or nuts.
  • Eat 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Eat more fish.
  1. Reduce Your Phone Usage

A tough habit to break, but it’s time to get smart about your smartphone. Science has proven that overuse of cell phones causes stress and also has a negative influence on your mental health.

  • Check social media just once or twice a day.
  • Switch off all notifications.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode or switch it off.

If you’re still struggling to ignore your mobile phone and focus on your studying try one of these apps:

  • Forest. When you want to concentrate, you can plant a seed in Forest, which will take 30 minutes to grow. But if you get distracted and leave the app, your tree will wither and die.
  • Moment. This app tracks how much time you spend on your devices. It allows you to set daily limits and find your own balance.
  • Off-time. Off-time lets you monitor and customise your connectivity so you can do the things that matter – like study for your exams.
  1. Recall a Happy Memory

Serotonin produces a sense of well-being and helps your brain to function at peak capacity. When you feel stressed generate more serotonin by thinking about something that makes you smile.

  1. Get Some Sun Every Day

Exposure to sunlight - 5 to 15 minutes per day - is another way to increase your serotonin levels.

  1. Sing, Sing a Song

Endorphins - which are linked to feelings of pleasure - are released when you sing. This reduces stress by soothing tension, elevating your spirits, and even lowering levels of cortisol.

  1. Use Time Management Techniques

Effective time management means you are ensured of getting a good night’s sleep – resulting in you feeling more energised and able to focus.

Managing your time properly also helps to avoid the stress of feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Don’t Multitask

Doing several tasks at once is bad for your health because it increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Despite the impression of being a good use of time, multitasking really wastes time and reduces the quality of your output.

  1. Sleep

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand. Stress can make it more difficult to fall asleep and even cause sleep disorders. But getting a good night’s rest reduces the effects of stress.

  • Set your body’s internal clock by going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day. Avoid sleeping in, even on weekends.
  • Because the blue light emitted by electronic devices is disruptive to sleep, keep them in a drawer or cupboard at night.
  1. Breathe

Studies have proven that deep breathing reduces your cortisol levels. Breathing deeply because you have exercised lowers cortisol, but also increases endorphins.

  1. Use Positive Affirmations

Science has shown that positive affirmations reduce exam stress by lowering Adrenalin levels.

  • I’m becoming more focused.
  • I’m getting better at taking exams.
  • I’m enjoying the process of learning.
  • Learning is meaningful and fun.
  • I’m developing self-discipline.
  1. Focus On Progress, Not Perfection

Being a perfectionist may sound ideal, but it often causes unnecessary stress.


If you’re feeling anxious about exams, you’re not alone. Read more about coping with exams here:

Reducing Test Taking Anxiety (Part 1), Reducing Test Taking Anxiety (Part 2), Reducing Test Taking Anxiety (Part 3)

The Dux Advantage

Your goals, in reach, together, look no further than Dux. We specialise in giving all the support needed for the increased mental health and well-being you need in order to thrive academically and in life. Contact us today, and get your ducks in a row: 060.656.1305  |info@duxpd.co.za

Dux | dʌks |  noun  "The top pupil in a class.”




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