Writing exams: the dreaded horror that always creeps up on us sooner than we expect it to. I’m sure many teenagers and young adults will agree that exams can feel like the nefarious villain hiding just around the corner, ready to knock you down. Dealing with exams can be really difficult even if you are a student who usually performs well, because there can sometimes be additional pressure to excel and live up to that reputation. It affects us all in different ways, which is why I want to share some of the feelings I have around exams and how I deal with them.
When exams start approaching and getting closer, it can sometimes feel like time is closing in around me and that there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish everything I want to. I struggle to balance everything going on in my life along with staying on top of my exam preparations. When it gets too much, I feel like a clown at a circus standing on a ball and juggling, except I’m dropping all the balls while everyone is watching. I’ve had to learn how to deal with all the stress that arises with exams and what the best ways are for me to channel it into a positive effort that doesn’t hinder me. Of course, it’s not an easy linear path and I can still sometimes feel overwhelmed, but I know how to cope with the pressure and to tackle it in the way that works best for me.
I use a lot of meditation and visualisation with exams because it helps me stay clear and focused on what I want out of my exams. When I meditate, I create a picture in my mind of what I want to attain and then envision how it would make me feel to achieve my goal. I bring up feelings of exuberance, joy and gratitude. This works really well for me and helps me a lot in managing my emotions around stress. Whenever I do feel anxious, I keep going back to that picture and remembering the emotions around it. Instead of internalising my worries around exams, my attention stays on the future and working towards it in a way that is not a panicked frenzy of trying to cram as much information conceivable into my brain in as short of a time period as possible. I like to do a bit of yoga every day because it helps me to stretch and move my body in a way that changes my energy and my headspace after sitting at my desk for most of the day. I also try to make time to take our dog for a barefoot walk in our nearby forest. I feel more connected and grounded to the earth. Everyone has different methods and ways of thinking that work for them and this is what resonates the best for me.
Studying for exams is something that doesn’t only affect the person writing the exams, it also affects the family dynamic because our main focus is on our exams and working towards that. This can diminish the time spent with the family and that can also affect them emotionally. When you are dealing with stress, the people living with you can pick up on it and start to take it on themselves, especially parents, who want you to be able to achieve the best that you can. I’m lucky enough to have parents who support me around exams rather than pressure me, unintentionally or not, which can just end up exacerbating angst around exams instead of helping.
Another thing that can be hard to deal with around exams is motivation. It can sometimes feel so pointless to be stressing over exams, or dedicating so much time to studying, with everything going on in the world. Currently, we’re dealing with a global pandemic and the stress and strain that puts on our lives. On top of that, it feels like a new climate disaster is popping up every day in a different part of the world. It feels so insignificant to place all our attention on exams when the future of the world we are inheriting is in such a dire situation.
What makes a difference for me is that I do feel like what I’m studying has meaning and merit for me, and that helps me focus more on my work when I need to. One of my main subjects is Psychology which is something that really interests me, especially with how awareness around mental health has progressed recently.
It’s an individual journey for us all to explore and discover what methods hold the most value for us in dealing with exams and the stress that they can hold. I feel like it’s almost like a training ground where we can hopefully transfer these skills into other aspects of our lives going forward.
About the author:
I’m Tessa Schroenn, a 17 year old girl from South Africa who has a passion for travelling and exploring the world and loves a good laugh as well as curling up with a book and a blanket, especially on rainy days.