You can build mental strength to help counter "disaster thinking".
Invest time to monitor and challenge your unhelpful thoughts. You can learn to change your thinking so it is more realistic by working out whether your initial thoughts about a situation are accurate or not.
Write down your unhelpful thoughts, like: "There is not enough time to do it all," and look for the evidence for and against the thought. What has happened in the past? What has happened to other people? What are the alternatives? Challenging unhelpful thoughts is a skill that takes practice.
Write yourself a timetable to stay organised. Schedule into the timetable all your commitments including classes, activities and study time. Don't forget to have breaks and fun. Keep revising the timetable to make sure you stick to it.
Healthy eating, regular exercise, regular sleep times (weekdays and weekends!) will help keep your body in best shape for study and exams. Work out the best sleep and wake times that allow you to get enough, about 8-10 hours. Limit your screen time before you go to bed to help keep your sleep consistent. Don't study or use screens in bed.
Some students put off what they should be doing. You might think, "I've got plenty of time" or "I work better under pressure" or believe you only work well if in the right mood. Procrastination actually sabotages your ability to do a good job.
The tendency to set rigid high standards can cause you to spend too much time on a task to get it right and too long on the first sentence so that you get it perfect.
There are things you can do:
- If you procrastinate, consider making changes to your study practice, like committing to study for set periods of time; studying with a peer; getting your parents or siblings to check in on you; setting rewards for sticking to your schedule.
- If you are really finding it hard to get started, try a technique called study grazing. Study for 10 minutes, have a break (5 minutes), then return for another 10 minutes. Repeat this until you feel you do not need all the breaks.
- If you're a perfectionist, when you first sit down to write, consider it a 'draft'. Allow yourself to use later versions to improve the writing.
- Allocate realistic time frames. One way to manage the competing demands of the HSC year is to allocate the right proportion of time to the task at hand. Although it might be easier to work on a task that is worth 5 per cent, it is better to spend most of your time on a task that weighs 25 per cent. If you are perfectionistic, this might mean accepting lower standards on tasks that are not worth as many marks so that you can concentrate on the tasks that are worth more marks.
- Break large tasks into smaller sizes and try not to underestimate the time each small task will take. This can help you to set realistic time frames too.
Practising relaxation techniques help. Most people need to experiment until they find a technique that works. Some techniques need to be practised regularly to reap the benefits. Try exercise, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, slow breathing, yoga, listening to calming music, being creative, getting outdoors. Find one that works for you.
If you experience high-level stress and anxiety every day; if it impacts your approach to study and exams, or maybe your friendships, romantic relationships or family life, consider seeking help.
It is normal to feel anxiety just before an exam. Here are some strategies to help you manage this:
It isn't the most pleasant feeling but you can handle it. Remember, you have strategies.
Challenge any unhelpful thoughts.
Use slow breathing: Breathe in and hold for a count of five. Exhale. Focus on slowing down your breathing by working towards breathing in over a count of four and out over a count of four. As you breathe out say the word "relax." Repeat.
Don't get caught in the frenzy. Rather than get caught up in last-minute fact-checking on the way into an exam or the comparisons with other students, try to stay in control and stay calm. Keep your distance from people who might make you feel more stressed. Get into a calm zone by breathing.