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How to Manage Exam Anxiety

How to Manage Exam Anxiety

‘Tis the season! .. and no, I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s EXAM TIME!

But as exam period approaches, our anxiety is escalating. Right? We hear you and more than that, we understand you.

Over the past months, we’ve been in contact with many of you who haven’t been feeling too optimistic. That’s right, if you’re reading this, you are not alone! In fact, we’ve gathered 3 of the most common negative thought patterns experienced by students during exam period.

1. “If I don’t pass this exam, I’ll definitely feel like a failure”
In the therapy world, this is called a cognitive distortion. To put it simply, your mind is playing tricks on you and giving you an “all or nothing” perspective without leaving much room for a grey area allowing for the complexity of most people and most situations.

Our Suggestion? Take a breath, ground yourself and try to locate those shades of grey even if they seem overtaken by the black and white. Work on maintaining realistic expectations and remind yourself that there will always be room for improvement. Ask yourself if you remember that time when you failed an exam in high school. Did it suck back then? Sure. Did it keep you from being where you are today? Probably not. Think that in a few years from now, you’ll look back and this time in your life and realize that it probably wasn’t worth all the anxiety.

2. “If I get a grade lower than x%, then my GPA will be affected, which means that I may or may not graduate, which will  impact my chances to get good job, which will put me in a financial strain meaning that I won’t be able to pay my student loans, etc…”
The classic snowball effect. We’ve all been there. We imagine that our path will be drawn a certain way based on how this one event will go. Read this last sentence again. Doesn’t it sound a little irrational? To think that our whole life is defined by one outcome?

Our Suggestion? Stay specific and start small. Examine the things that you have control over at that moment and search for ways to improve them. Most of the time, the higher percentage of your anxiety is linked to irrational thoughts, aka things that you want to have control over but cannot (i.e. predicting every question in the exam or thinking that your whole life will be impacted if you don’t score a certain grade). In those situations, notice that a lot of your energy is wasted on things you can’t control- which may be why you’re left wondering why you’re feeling so exhausted at the end of the day when you haven’t really done much. Try to identity irrational thoughts so you are better equipped to handle them. Always look for the evidence and compare it to your negative thinking (i.e. what are the clear signs indicating that I will fail this exam?).

3. “School is not looking good for me anyway and my chances of graduating are low so what’s the point of studying?
This is one of the most common thought patterns experienced by all students. It’s easy to get unmotivated when there’s been a build-up of past events that have led to this moment.

Our Suggestion? Remember that it takes less effort to dwell in the negative patterns than to challenge them, so you will be tempted to just give up and you will find yourself in a negative spiral. Rather than just assume the worst, review your academic history and get a rational sense of where you stand today. You might be surprised that it’s not as bad as you had thought. If you’re still feeling pessimistic, reach out for support to get different opinions, whether that’s a therapist or an academic advisor. As hard as it can be, take that step and ask for help!

Building on that last piece of advice, no matter what you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. Whether you’re having doubts about your future, or worried about your level of confidence or just concerned about your overall experience at school, there’s always someone you can reach out to. In fact, that’s what Real Campus is for. Real Campus offers you the chance to book a consult with an academic advisor or to speak to a clinical therapist for unlimited sessions, and all of that is free of cost!

Want support now or in the future? If you’re looking to gain new perspectives and improve your negative thought patterns but feel like you need support with that, we are here to help! There are different ways you can reach us: Chat with us using the chat bubble on the bottom right of this page, click on Get Support Now at the top right or simply call us at 1-877-390-REAL (7325).

How To Manage Panic Attacks

How To Manage Panic Attacks

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, I’m sure you’re aware of just how terrifying the experience can be. Although an attack may only last a few minutes, it can leave you feeling very unsettled. These attacks generally stem from intense anxiety and can appear suddenly, out of the blue. While a panic attack itself may be brief, it can lead to an increased anxiety and fear of experiencing another episode.

The best way to deal with future panic attacks is by learning how to cope with your anxiety so that if you do notice symptoms of a panic attack, you can calm your mind and body until the symptoms subside. Below are some strategies you can use to help manage your anxiety and cope with physical symptoms.

Deep Breathing

Anxiety can cause your breaths to become quick and shallow, which makes both mental and physical symptoms of a panic attack worse. Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that requires you to pay attention to how you’re breathing and use your belly, not just your chest, as you draw in breaths. When you begin to feel panic, consciously take slow and deep breaths. As you focus on your breath coming in and going out, let your worries or concerns fade away. It’s helpful to practice this technique while sitting or lying down. Put a hand lightly on your stomach and breathe so that your abdomen lifts and lowers your hand. Once you learn this technique you can practice it when day-to-day stressful situations arise.

Interrupt Negative Thinking

Shout out the word “stop” really loud inside your head. By shouting the word “stop” you’re interrupting the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands. Often those experiencing a panic attack get into an endless loop repeating the same catastrophic thoughts over and over in their minds. Interrupting this spiral gives you the opportunity to replace the fearful message with a calming one.

Use Coping Statements

A coping statement is a positive statement that is at least as strong as the catastrophic statement that you’ve been scaring yourself with! Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Choose a statement that addresses the negative thought.

For example, if you believe you’re having a heart attack — a common fear during a panic attack — then you might say something like this to yourself “I’m having a heart attack” or “I’m going to die”. After you shout the word “stop” immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you cope with the situation, such as, “I’m only having a panic attack and it will be over in three minutes if I relax” or, “My fear is making my heart pound harder, I know my heart is fine”. Other coping statements might be “I’ve gotten through this situation many times before and I can get through it again.”

It can be helpful to reflect on the kinds of fear thoughts that bring on panic for you and make a list of coping statements that you can look at when you need to rather than trying to think of statements in the middle of a panic attack.

Accept your Feelings

Acceptance of your feelings is very important. Minimizing your experience usually serves to perpetuate it. It can be helpful to start by identifying what emotion you are feeling. Most panic attacks are caused by the emotion of fear. Identify the emotion you are feeling and reflect on the reason for feeling it. Validate that feeling and the reason for it.