The days before an exam can be overwhelming for many of us. While some of us feel overwhelmed by the never ending syllabus that needs to be covered, some of us may face stress from parents, peers or even ourselves to do exceedingly well. Then, there are those of us who get anxious and nervous at the very thought of just taking an exam. Exam anxiety inflicts the best of us and it’s important to know you aren’t alone in your anxiety. Psychologists highly recommend that students talk to someone they trust - a friend, parent, teacher or counselor - when they feel anxious.
Why talk to someone when you are anxious?
Helps you acknowledge that there is trouble: When feeling anxious before an exam we often try our best to ignore the signs and continue to be buried in our books. Talking helps us acknowledge or understand if there is a problem and if you need to seek help immediately.
Sorts your thoughts: On the days before an exam, you may find that you are confused and anxious and can’t put a finger on what is causing you to feel this way. Articulating your emotions verbally helps you sort out your own thoughts. Talking about your feelings can help you sort through them and make the situation clear in your mind.
Helps you unburden: Talking to someone relieves the burden of the stress you are feeling and makes you feel lighter. Talk therapy is known to be a great way to release tension. If you are talking to a peer, it helps to know that there are others who share your experience.
Gives you a new perspective: Situations often feel more overwhelming than they actually are. Our low mood and anxiety starts to define our self-worth and makes us lose sight of our strengths and abilities. A parent, teacher, counselor or an academic senior may help you with a new perspective of your situation and remind you of your abilities. A neutral listener will be able to represent the positives and negatives of where you stand more objectively. For example, they may talk about their own experience with exams and how they got past their own anxiety during exams.
You may receive helpful tips: Whether you choose to talk to a peer, senior, teacher or parent, you may receive useful tips on how to manage yourself and your time better. A peer whom you trust, may share their time management tips, or a college senior may help you pick out portions that are important.
Who should I talk to?
Picking the person that you want to talk to is an important step. You will be most inclined to talk to someone you trust and whose opinion you respect. You could talk to a peer, parent, senior, teacher or counselor. If you choose to talk to a peer, be sure not to pick someone who is very anxious. While it is comforting to talk to someone who is going through the same experience, discussing your anxiety with another anxious person may send both of you into panic. Also remember, that sometimes the person you choose to talk to may not be equipped to handle your situation. If you don’t find the solace and help you were looking for with one person, be sure to try talking to someone else or get in touch with a mental health expert.
Can I write in my journal instead of talking to someone?
Certainly. Writing in a journal has many of the benefits of talking to someone. Writing, much like talking, can help you sort your thoughts, see your problems more objectively and also feel lighter from having unburdened your worries through words.
When do I seek the help of a college counselor?
You can schedule an appointment with your college counselor to talk about any stress or anxiety that you may be undergoing. However if you find that your anxiety is extreme and find that the idea of exams is making you hopeless and is interfering with your daily activities, be sure to walk into your counselor’s office. If your college does not have a counselor and you have not access to a mental health expert, you can call a helpline to talk.
This article was put together with inputs from Dr Manjula, associate professor, department of clinical psychology at NIMHANS.
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