The long days of the mid-year exam season are slowly creeping by for many Western students, as they struggle to push through the remaining week.
Naturally, stress and anxiety levels are at a peak, as evidenced by a quick scroll through the Western Reddit page. Many are behind on their studies after months of procrastination, while others have submitted to the reality that they have either failed the exam they just wrote or will fail the one coming up soon. Others, yet, may feel completely overwhelmed by the pressure, which may trigger various health struggles, such as trouble sleeping and panic attacks.
If you are one of the people mentioned above, I would urge you to take a mental step back from the state of emotional overwhelm you are immersed in. Zoom out of the academic details into a wider perspective, so you can better evaluate the relative significance of these exams in the grand scheme of your life.
Negative emotions tend to blow things out of proportion. Unless it becomes a long-term pattern of behaviour, failing an exam or a course is often far from the crisis it initially seems to be. Regardless of where you are, reminding yourself of the big picture will provide some objectivity that will help keep your emotions in check and improve your decisions moving forward.
That is not to say you should regard your exams with a careless attitude or undermine their importance, only that you should give your academic obstacles what they're worth. They might be worth some emotional investment and a lot of hard work, but they are not worth taking a serious toll on your mental and physical wellbeing.
Remaining level-headed within circumstances of high stress is a skill most people continue to improve on all their lives. If you are held back by either being too hung up on the past or too anxious about the future, that’s when you know you need to regain control by putting things in focus. While this is admittedly easier said than done, you will be grateful for whatever little progress you are able to make.
There are a number of things you can do to help achieve this mental distance. For one thing, you can take yourself out of the zone by temporarily engaging in different non-academic activities. Speaking to individuals outside the situation, specifically loved ones, can help put things into perspective. You can also try a number of mindfulness and meditation techniques, or use this short guide on approaching stressful situations.
I have been where many of you are now. More than a few times, I have sat in bed on the night before a big exam with my head in my hands, rocking back and forth in desperation. Gradually, I learned how to speed through the emotional crisis to do the best I could in the time I had left.
I learned that when reality hits close to the exam day, the crashing waves of exam-related anxiety are useless; they will neither help me do well on an exam nor prevent this from happening again in the future. I learned to set limits for how far I would allow the stress to take a toll on my mental and physical health. When I struggle in situations of high stress, I try to take a step back so I can view things more clearly and move forward more steadily.
Remember the big picture. Whether you procrastinated, underestimated the difficulty of the course or simply got unlucky this term, you will get many second chances to make better decisions, but you will inevitably make more bad decisions as well. The goal is to make fewer bad decisions in the long run, without letting the ones you already made slow you down.