It’s not all bad news when it comes to feeling stressed and studying according to Psychotherapist Ron Rapee. In fact, students who worry about their studies are more likely to study harder, put in more effort and, as a result, do better.
“A moderate degree of anxiety can often benefit studies. On the negative side, when anxiety gets too much, it can markedly interfere with performance.”
When worry is excessive, this is when it causes issues for students, particularly when the worry interferes with the ability to concentrate, making study less efficient, explains Prof. Rapee.
“Ultimately many people simply “give up” and avoid their work because it is too overwhelming.
“High levels of anxiety can also reduce performance in exams by affecting concentration and memory,” says Prof. Rapee.
So, if you’re studying and feel overwhelmed by assessments to the point of not being able to focus, what’s the remedy?
5 Ways to cope with study stress
According to Clinical Psychologist and author of Anxiety Free, Drug Free, Renee Mill, stress comes from a perception that the load is too much, so managing the load through the following stress-relieving tips may help.
1. Give yourself a reality check
Reminding yourself that you are in a normal situation and that hundreds (if not thousands) of students have coped with study and assessments just like the one you are facing is helpful, says Ms Mill.
“It is not an exceptional situation or an impossible task. You are no different to all the others who have gone through this.”
2. Break study tasks into smaller parts
When it comes to facing all the work at once to prepare for assessments, it can be overwhelming for even the most diligent student.
Instead, try tackling one chapter at a time so that studying becomes more manageable and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your tutor if you’re struggling with time-management, says Ms Mill.
3. Plan study and relaxation
It can be easy to fill your spare time with endless study blocks, but keep in mind that time for relaxation is just as crucial to your mental health and your academic performance.
“When you plan what you will study each day, plan for relaxation time every day too.
“Studies show that the average concentration span is 40 minutes, so cramming for two hours may be a waste of time.
“Instead, study hard for 40 minutes, then have a walk around the block and study for the next forty minutes.
“After five hours of study take a longer break, such as a two-hour break to swim, meet a friend for coffee or read a novel. This rests your brain and replenishes it.
“You will learn and retain more (information) if you incorporate rest-study times throughout the day. It is a myth that sitting and studying for 18 hours a day will improve your performance.”
4. Eat healthy foods, regularly
Eating a healthy diet is essential to study performance, as you need the energy to focus, advises Ms Hill.
“You need to keep your blood sugar constant to have the energy to think.
“Chocolates and fast food may provide a quick lift, but after 30 minutes you will crash and be low in energy. Rather, have regular small meals which incorporate low-GI (glycaemic index) foods.”
Low GI snacks could include a handful of almonds, a small bunch of grapes, dried apricots, carrot or celery sticks with hummus, apple slices with peanut butter, or a boiled egg on wholegrain toast.
5. Stick to a regular sleep routine
While everyone has different sleep requirements, it is essential to establish good sleep hygiene as a student.
“Go to sleep at your regular bedtime and have eight hours of sleep. This allows your brain to clean out the “garbage ” of the day and prune your neurons, so your brain is fresh and ready to go again in the morning,” advises Ms Hill.
The key to reducing stress as a student is to maintain balance by avoiding studying ridiculous hours, and to understand that study and assessments are a regular part of student life, which is achievable, explains Ms Hill.
“It’s important to get the healthy eating, sleeping and exercise behaviours in place at the beginning of the year, so they become habitual,” says Ms Hill.
It’s also vital that students maintain the study load from the beginning of the year (or whenever a study program begins), hand in assessments, get help when it’s required and feel confident in their learning journey, explains Ms Mill.