Sitting exams and studying always comes with a bit of stress. With the current restrictions not helping, things can seem a little overwhelming. Stress, however, is a natural response. The key is to let it be a passing feeling and to not let it turn into anxiety.
When we are stressed or anxious, our bodies perceive danger and activate our flight or fight response. A quickening of breath is one way in which your body responds to a perceived danger.
When that happens, let yourself acknowledge this as a natural response. Following this, try to calm your body down using mindfulness or breathing techniques.
The aim of breathing exercises is to slow down your breath, which in turn slows down your heart rate. One way to do this is to image a square in your head. Each side of the square, should represent four seconds.
On the first 4 seconds you take a breath. This is the bottom of the square. You then hold your breath for 4 seconds, which represents the side of the square. Next, you exhale for 4 seconds while imagining the top side. Once you exhale, hold your breath for another 4 seconds which represents another side of the square. Try visualising this as you breathe or even draw it out. Repeat this as many times as you need.
The 4-7-8 technique will also help to relax your breath. First, you inhale for 4 seconds and hold your breath for 7 seconds. Then, you slowly breathe out for 8 seconds. The 8 seconds of exhaling will be effective at slowing down your breath to help you keep calm.
The purpose of these exercises is to refocus your mind and to stop negative thought processes. The best way to do this is to focus on your surroundings by engaging your senses, thus being mindful of them.
The most popular technique involves making a mental list of things you can see, feel, hear, smell and taste. You begin with your sense of sight and pick 5 things that you can see. Next you list 4 things that you can feel. This can be the ground beneath your feet, how your clothes feel against your skin or how your pen feels in your hand.
Next, you focus on 3 things that you can hear, anything from your own breath to the birds outside. Finally, you list 2 things that you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. When you complete this, you will notice that your racing thoughts have slowed down.
Other techniques to help you slow down your thoughts include visualisation exercises. For example, you close your eyes and imagine a familiar room in detail. This can be your friend’s bedroom or a relative’s kitchen. Try to visualise this room, starting from the shape, the colours, furniture and move onto smaller details like the photos on the walls or what is placed on the table. Try to imagine the texture of the room, especially the floor. Think about the smells and the sounds. Like the exercise from above, this technique will refocus your mind away from negative thought patterns.
Try some of these exercises to see which one works best for you. It is best to practice some of these everyday, even if you’re not stressed or anxious. That way they will become second nature to you when you need to use them. Remember to exercise, keep a heathy diet and get enough sleep. All of this will help you to keep a positive and anxiety-free mindset.