contant mental strain, as well as a physical one. Being in a constant state of
anxiety affects your thinking and stops you from concentrating properly.
help your mind to overcome stress by:
· Learning to focus your mind fully on your work.
· Developing positive thinking styles.
· Visualising success.
Back to the exam
under stress, it's hard to concentrate. You're likely to get distracted by
worrying thoughts which pop into your head and distract you - thoughts like
"I'll never learn all this", and "Won't it be awful if I
fail?" All of which can be terribly distracting. One of the best ways of
dealing with these thoughts is by keeping yourself so busy that they don't have
time to arrive. And that means revising in a sensible and intelligent way.
absolutely worst way of revising is the
method - for lots of reasons, but in this context because it leaves your mind
far too free for those distracting thoughts to pop up. It's much better to
revise actively - summarising your notes, converting the information into
flow-charts and diagrams, engaging in revision quizzes with your friends, and
so on. By doing that, your mind will be too busy for these thoughts to come up.
There are good mental reasons for doing this too - it helps you to learn better
- but they're for the Revision Page.
If you have ever
tried yoga or meditation, you'll know that it's possible to confine your
awareness to a much more narrow focus then you normally use. Use the same
exercises to screen out awareness of everything but the problem that you are
working on. Although it can sometimes be tiring, really deep concentration,
with all of the distractions screened out, can also be tremendously refreshing.
achieve that, though, you actually need to be interested in your work. It's
hard to concentrate fully on something that you find boring. But nothing really
needs to be boring - not if you explore all of its implications. Try discussing
the topic with other people - friends, parents, teachers - to find out why it
matters. If you listen to what they say with an open mind, you'll probably get
some unusual insights, which will help you to focus on your revision with more
interest. Of course, it does need an open mind - if you've already decided that
the topic is simply dull, then nobody will be able to change your mind for you.
The important question in mental stress management is this: "who
is in control of your learning?". Human beings hate being unable to
control things - it's something which we find deeply stressful. So if you see
learning as something which just happens - which you can't really control -
then that will automatically will be adding to your stress.
you see yourself as being in control - which, let's face it, you are really -
then you need to live up to that. Which means that you need to take active
steps to make sure that you are learning effectively, in a contructive way. Try
eliminating the words "I can't help it" from your vocabulary, as see
what happens. Each time you want to say that, stop yourself short, and look for
ways that you might be able to do something about it. You'll be amazed how much
control you can take over your own learning!
Gloomy thoughts don't help your stress levels, either. The more you
concentrate on how bad things are, the worse they will seem, and the more your
stress levels will grow. Try the Pollyanna technique: each time something bad
happens, deliberately look for a positive benefit or side-effect which might be
a result. Looking on the bright side like this might seem childish when you
first begin to do it, but it has a very definite effect.
Take a very
careful look at your habitual attribution patterns. Attributions are the
reasons that we give for why things happen, and you need to look at what sort
of reasons, or explanations, you usually use. People who are depressed have
very typical attributional patterns: in everyday conversation, they tend to
give reasons which are global (affecting lots of things and not just the one
thing they are talking about at the time); stable (likely to continue in the
future); external (deriving from outside forces and not their own efforts); and
uncontrollable (what it says). All of which adds up to a "victim
mentality", and a sense of helplessness.
Positive thinking, on the other hand, means adopting more constructive
attributional patterns which give you more chance to sort things out. Try
making specific, unstable, internal and controllable attributions instead.
Specific attributions are reasons which don't necessarily apply in other
situations; unstable ones might never happen again; internal reasons needn't
have happened if you learned better ways of doing things; controllable reasons
could be prevented. All of which adds up to a much more positive way of seeing
the world - and one which involves a lot less stress!
to the mental
psychologists have known for a long time that visualising success can make an
enormous difference to sporting performance in competitions. Successful
athletes and other competitors sometimes spend almost as much time practising
mentally as they do physically - and an important part of that mental practice
is envisaging yourself doing things exactly right.
though, for exams we do the opposite! People spend much more time visualising
failure than they do success: they feel that they don't know enough, they
imagine going into the exam room and not knowing any of the answers; they talk
about how little they know to their friends. All of which is terribly destructive.
you need to do is to build up your confidence and minimise stress. And you do
that by being positive about what you do know, not negative about what you
don't! After each revision session, cultivate a sense of achievement - saying
to yourself: "well, at least I know that bit". If you've revised
sensibly, it will be true. And if you've organised your time intelligently,
you'll get through the amount that you have to cover. But whatever you do,
don't destroy your confidence by thinking - or talking - about the gaps in your
knowledge and the possibility of failure.
Return to the exam stress front page