December 11, 2018

Self Care and Exams

By: Amy Higgins

Feeling the stress of exams? You’re not alone! Exam season is one of the most stressful times of year. If you’re like most students, you’re trying to balance studying, extra-curriculars, part-time jobs, activism, and your social life … it’s a lot! With that in mind, here are a few strategies to help you cope:

  1. Reach out to your friends.

It’s tempting to isolate yourself when things become difficult. But reaching out to others for support can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. Make plans with your friends to study together, try out an exercise class, or attend a holiday event. Chances are, they’re feeling just as overwhelmed as you are, and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to destress with a pal.

If you find yourself needing more support than your friends can provide, though …

2. Go to counselling!

UBC has lots of resources to helpyou feel and be your best. Counseling can help you cope with many of thechallenges you may be facing in your life. The UBC Wellness Peers and AMSSpeakeasy are also excellent low-barrier supports.  Don’t be afraid to reach out!—services

3. Feed yourself.

It’s hard to eat well as a student — the temptation to live off pizza, instant noodles, and sugar is real. But taking the time to nourish yourself can really pay off. Stock up on things that are quick and easy to prepare and eat — avocados, sweet potatoes, nuts, granola bars, and hummus! Your body will thank you.

4. Get lots of rest.

The occasional all-nighter is hard to avoid. But take the time to catch up when you can — naps aren’t just for preschoolers! Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule when possible. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, figure out what works for you, and make an effort to stick to it.

5. Exercise!

I used to think exercise wasn’t for me because I hated going to the gym. But the truth is, there are lots of ways to move your body. Ride your bike! Go snowshoeing! Try a yin yoga class! Go swimming at the UBC pool! Sign up for tap dance! Whatever works for you … any movement is better than none.

6. Drink healthily.

Many students depend on caffeine to power through exam season. There’s nothing wrong with a coffee here and there to keep you going, but drinking too much of it can leave you feeling jittery, anxious, and unable to focus. Try to find a balance that works for you. Similarly, it can be fun to celebrate the end of exams with a few alcoholic drinks, or more than a few … If you choose to drink alcohol, remember that moderation is key. And the best thing to drink is … water! Carry a water bottle and make an effort to stay hydrated throughout the day. It will work wonders for your overall health!

7. Maintain perspective.

I always thought that failing an exam was the WORST thing that could ever happen to me. And then it happened — I failed my third year Stats exam. And you know what? It was fine. I freaked out for a while, called my mom crying, etc., but the world kept turning. It’s easy to feel like one bad grade will ruin all your future plans, but the reality is, most people get a disappointing grade at one point or another. So keep your expectations realistic and try to practice self-compassion. Thoughts like “I HAVE to get x% on this exam or my life will be over!!!” are not helping you — they’re holding you back. Instead, try to tell yourself things like: “I’ve studied for this exam, I’ll try my best, and I hope I get a good grade. Even if I don’t, though, things will still most likely work out okay in the end. I don’t have to be perfect — no one is. My grades do not define me.” This self-talk may feel weird at first, but the more you practice, the more it will feel natural and true.

8. Make a plan.

Creating a firm plan or schedule for studying can help you feel in control and prepared. How many days do you have left to study? Which material do you need to prioritize reviewing? What other commitments do you need to work around? When you write it all down, things will feel much more manageable.

And most importantly, remember — you’re not just a student, you’re a whole person with legitimate and important needs. There are lots of ways to take care of yourself each day, in big and small ways. Try setting one specific self-care goal — to get more sleep, drink more water, or speak to yourself more kindly. Over time, little things can add up and make a really big difference to your wellbeing!

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