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Top 5 Ways to Handle Stress Before a Physics Exam

In Singapore, it is a common sight to see Singaporean stressed out across all age groups. For students, the stress that they face is managing a packed schedule filled with school work, CCA, additional enrichment classes that are non-academic in nature such as piano lessons and last but not least tuition classes for various subjects. 

Students often find themselves having to struggling with trying to meet a bar that has been set overly high as they try to attain good grades across all their subjects in school. One alarming phenomenon is that there have been a rising number of cases where students either perform self-harm or even try to take their own lives in a bid to cope with their deteriorating mental and psychological well-being. Thus, it is important for students to understand and learn how to take care of their mental state before their exams. Here are the top 5 ways to manage your stress effectively.

(1) Give Yourself Frequent Breaks from Studying Physics

This may seem contradictory as you face an already tight schedule to squeeze in as much revision as possible before your Physics exam. Yet, you may be surprised that giving yourself frequent breaks in between your revision will help to speed up your study of the subject instead. Your mind is not a machine and needs ample time to relax and recover from the mental fatigue while you try to study rigorously during the final weeks before your exams. In fact, by taking short breaks, you may even find yourself with better clarity and sharpness in understanding the different Physics topics. As Physics contains abstract concepts, the focus is to understand rather than memorise the content. You will have an easier time understanding the different concepts when you allow some mini-breaks away from your books and go do a leisurely activity before coming back. As the saying goes, “less speed, more haste” is a perfect anecdote for this form of stress management.

(2) Exercise when you are not studying Physics

This is another controversial method of stress management that may seem ridiculous to many students. There are many studies that show that engaging in a moderate form of exercise will help to release serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones that positively affect one’s mood. When students are already in the high-strung state of panic and anxiety from excessive studying for their exams, scheduling some physical activity after a long day of revision will help them to relax. Exercising also helps you sleep better, so that you do not toss and turn in bed due to exam anxiety. Consider taking a 30 minute jog around your neighbourhood or an hour of cycling in the evening to wind down your day to reduce all the pent-up stress of studying.

(3) Always rehydrate during your study revision

This is a simple yet effective way of maintaining a balanced state of mind. Having regular water breaks in between your studies can both help you to focus better and keeps you more awake for a prolonged period. It is also crucial to drink lots of fluid so that you avoid falling ill just before your exams.

(4) Start your Physics revision early and do not “burn midnight oil” 

This is a common phenomenon amongst students of all age groups to study late into the night. This could be a reflection of not revising regularly throughout the entire school year and having to resort to last minute studying and cram as much knowledge as possible. This is really bad for your mental state because lack of sleep will not only result in a higher possibility for carelessness and “brain fog” where your mind cannot function at its optimal level. Both will affect your final grades in your Physics exam, so this is definitely something to avoid.

A good guideline is to have at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep before each of your exams. In addition, having a regular sleep pattern 1-2 weeks before your exam is also crucial in minimising the disruption to your sleep cycle. This will make you less irritable and more energised to tackle your exam papers when the time comes.

(5) Talk to someone

If you really feel like you are at your wit’s end when it comes to the overwhelming build up of stress and do not know how to find a release for it, please approach someone, whom you can trust, to confide in. Do not think that it is a sign of weakness to have to find someone to pour your worries and anxiety as you are only human and moments of vulnerability are perfectly normal. You can reach out to your good friend at school, your siblings or even your Physics tuition teacher if you are close to him or her. Having an avenue to vent out your frustrations and stress is a good way to cope with an unbalanced state of mind.

As a Physics tutor myself, I have come across students who become jittery and nervous as their exam draws near. The high expectations to outperform their peers are always present, either due to pressure from their parents or themselves. Remember that not doing well in a single Physics exam is not the end of the road and it just signals that there is a greater room for improvement to do better in the next exam. Although you may feel that grades are everything, but they do not define your future as there are more examples of successful individuals today who do not rely on that paper degree to excel in life. There are always learning points regardless of your performance in exams and the determination to learn from your mistakes and do better the next time is more important than scoring full marks in every exam.