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By The University of Sydney in Easy Reading
14th of October 2019
Study stress

Clever tactics to eliminate stress while you study.

Any exam period can be a chaotic time for your mind, with multiple exams to prepare for and schoolies activities to plan.

Dr Benjamin Veness, a mental health advocate, shares his tips on how to avoid stress and practice mindfulness during exams. Here are some of his top tips for getting through (and you will!).


1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a stress-management technique which involves observing your thoughts, feelings and breath.

As a quick exercise, sit with your feet flat on the ground and your back straight but not touching the back of the chair. Set your phone timer to countdown for 90 seconds. Rest your right hand in your left hand and close your eyes. Breathe a little slower and more deliberately than normal, and feel the air entering and exiting your nose, your chest slowly rising and falling. When your mind wanders, silently acknowledge it and be proud that you noticed, then return to focusing on your breaths, in and out.

On exam day, focusing on your breathing will calm your nerves and help you to do your best when writing time begins.


2. Destroy the distractions

Okay, you knew this was coming, to study effectively you need to avoid distractions as much as possible. If you do find yourself turning to your phone to procrastinate, stop and take a proper break instead.

Once in the exam room, rely on your mindfulness practice and try not to be judgemental about your mind having drifted, allow yourself to acknowledge your thoughts and then calmly bring yourself back to the question.


3. If you don’t snooze, you lose

Make time for sleep. To work at your best, you need your rest. For young adults, that’s typically seven to nine hours. It can be hard to get to sleep when you’re feeling stressed or have had your brain switched on all day studying. Unwind before bed by taking advantage of free mindfulness meditation apps like Headspace or Australia’s recently revamped Smiling Mind. Need more sleep advice? Researchers from the University of Sydney have compiled these ten tips on how to establish good sleep habits.

Reducing study stress


4. Healthy body, fit mind

Stay hydrated, eat three meals, and choose nutritious snacks throughout the day – it will give you the fuel you need to focus.

Exercise regularly. Choose whatever you enjoy most – going for a walk, run, swim, yoga, dance class, or visiting the gym. Exercising with a friend can make the activity more fun, as well as providing additional motivation.


5. Pretty up your study area

Give yourself the best environment to focus in by choosing somewhere with enough light, a comfortable chair, and little to no distractions.

Or study in beautiful surroundings. If you need to read something in hard copy, try to get out and enjoy a little sunshine while you highlight.


6. Don’t be too hard on yourself!

There’s no point berating yourself if you didn’t get through as much work as you hoped to. You can only do the best you can, with what you’ve got right now. So forget today’s indiscretions and focus on tomorrow instead.

You’ve got this!


Thinking about what to do after your exams? Compare your options and create a personalised course guide, My Course Guide.


Dr Benjamin Veness is a University of Sydney alumni and completed a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 2014, and a Master of Public Health in 2013. Throughout his studies and career, he’s been committed to working for the mental health of university students.