Exam stress on students, peer pressure and competition.
The pandemic and the lockdowns in recent years have made a huge impact on our lives, all of us have had struggled to cope up with the new norms and the demanding situations in our day to day lives, be it maintaining physical distance, wearing masks, washing our hands repetitively, living with the fear of contracting the virus and some of us had to deal with the death of our loved ones due to the pandemic. The past two years have been very difficult for the common man in order to maintain their quality of life, one’s physical and mental health, work, financial stability, and education.
Education unlike the other major aspects of our lives has been greatly impacted by the global pandemic, all the educational institutions, schools, and colleges were shut down and the students were forced to stay back and study from home, though it was a necessary measure taken by the authorities it had its equal share of advantages and disadvantages. The students had their struggle in the comfort of their houses in coping up with the online classes and exams. “It wasn’t easy for me to study from my home” told by my clients during the counseling sessions, “I have wasted my time, I have been procrastinating a lot”, “My home environment is not friendly” are some of the common statements made by my clients in the sessions and most of their concerns were “How would I address the academic stress?”, “How can I prepare well for my exams?”, “How to be more productive?”
In the recent past, most of the students and others have been having issues such as procrastination, declined interest in academic works, difficulty in understanding the subjects, increased screen time, and dependency on video games and other social media. Due to all these, some of the students have difficulty in coping up with exams since there is a huge baggage of syllabus to cover, perform well in their exams, and maintain decent grades.
With the colleges becoming offline, the examination stress is increasing among many students and having to give offline exams hereafter. I recall some of the clients saying that “online exams were cool” because some of them were open-book exams or they could discuss with others and some of them used other shortcuts methods to score well. Now! Getting back to our earlier lifestyles may require some more time and effort as most of us have been used to the changes that happened due to the pandemic. The exams have been always stressful for students, there will be a lot of expectations from the parents, family members, and many others known to us. If one doesn’t get good marks, they may have to go through further stress by not getting the desired college for their higher studies, may have to settle down with a less paying job, or end up not getting a job. These are some of the concerns our parents may showcase or an individual may develop by comparing with other students. Although some of those concerns are true, the competition one has to face from others in order to get into higher studies or for a job, may not help the student prepare well or bring out their best performances in the exams since these may lead the student to develop exam stress or anxiety, thus affecting their performance during the exams.
In my counseling practice, my clients (most of them are students) have reported that they have issues such as anxiety, sleeplessness, reduced appetite, somatic complaints, procrastination, hopelessness, helplessness during their examination times. They had to cover their syllabus, submit project works, assignments and manage themselves in doing all the work is very tough and often they feel like giving it up. There could be several other factors that elevate stress and anxiety such as comparing oneself with others, perfectionism, being very critical about self, setting up unrealistic goals, and having high expectations.
Dealing with Exam stress:
Every student may have a different approach when it comes to studying and preparing for exams, some may prefer to study during the night or during the day, some may want to have group studies because the discussion with the group members helps them to understand the concepts well or some may want to study alone, understanding what could work better for oneself is one of the first steps to start a schedule for studying during exam times. Scheduling activities and executing the plans well is a key in avoiding exam stress as it helps us to break the work into small portions and achieve the goal set for the time. It is very important to take breaks at regular intervals and one need not feel guilty for taking breaks, students often tend to push themselves more during exams which results in “exhaustion or burnout” and they may feel disinterested in the work that they are doing or get distracted and engaged in some other activities such as phones, surf through social media and other less prioritized works. So it is okay to take a break and relax by choosing activities such as going for short walks, having a beverage or soft drink, stretching, etc. The most important factor is the break time which need not be too short or too long.
Rewarding oneself after successfully completing the tasks or goals set for the particular time or the day, is a simple and important factor that makes one feel satisfied in accomplishing the set goal, reinforces the behaviors, and develops a positive image about oneself. The reward need not be necessarily money bought, it could be a cup of coffee, eating snacks, watching one’s favorite movie or a video, gifting oneself, or it can be verbal appreciation for self.
Comparing oneself with others can cause lots of stress to an individual, a student may think, why he/she is not good at academics like others? I study for a longer duration but end up not getting good grades? The other person doesn’t put in much effort but lands up scoring high. Every individual has a different skill set and it is difficult to compare two individuals in a fair way, comparing one’s previous performance and analyzing how one can improvise and get better actually helps an individual to know one’s limitations and work better. So if you are comparing yourself with others, then you need to think!
Practicing self-care exercises such as “eating healthy, drinking a good amount of water, avoiding smoking and drinking, taking shower if you are tired or stressed, exercising, sleeping for 6-8 hours, talking to others, doing mindful exercises, etc.
Stress is often seen as a negative thing and most of us will be very concerned about it, actually, some amount of stress can be helpful, it makes an individual punctual, productive, be aware of their responsibilities, and alarms them about the work to be carried out. The stress can be managed well if one has an adequate amount of resources to deal with it but can become harmful when it exceeds a threshold, it starts impacting us negatively and declines one’s productivity. Stress and anxiety when they are at a low level it can be managed well by taking adequate actions by self but requires professional help when an individual feels it is difficult to manage by themselves and talking their support system are not helping them anymore.
Mental health professionals such as Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists, Other Psychologists, and Counsellors are the resources for an individual to seek professional help for stress and anxiety or any other mental health-related issues. Psychiatrists and Psychologists are trained professionals who help the concerned individual in understanding their condition and management of their issues. The stress and anxiety related to exams, other mental health issues can be addressed by Psychotherapies, counseling, and pharmacotherapies. In some conditions an individual may require medicines along with therapies to address the issues they are going through, Psychiatrists will prescribe medicines (if required) after thorough evaluation.
If you think, you need to talk to a professional regarding academic, exam-related stress, or any mental health concerns, we are here to listen to you and help you manage yourself well. Mpower is an organization that provides mental health care for individuals. Psychologists and Psychiatrists at Mpower are skilled professionals and empathetic, it is a free space to talk about one’s issues without being worried about confidentiality and other matters.
It’s okay to be not okay, reach out to us if you have any concerns.
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