StudentStudent 2 Coping Strategies

With the HSC trials now completed, and the final exams looming, it is a good time to consider some stress management tools that can be useful in managing anxiety at this important life stage. Here are some proven coping strategies that may help you on your journey!


During this stressful time, it is crucial that you take good care of yourself. A healthy diet and lifestyle becomes even more important than usual. Exercise is a proven antidote to anxiety and depression. Researchers have shown that daily exercise has positive psychological outcomes, and that in many instances, is as effective as medication in the treatment of some mental illnesses. Diet is also important in keeping good health during exam time. Although junk food may seem appealing, it will not help you feel ‘on top of your game’, as the sugar crash that follows can set you up for an unproductive day. Aim to eat 3-5 vegetables, 2 pieces of fruit, complex carbohydrates, and protein. Four – six meals a day will keep your sugar levels steady. It is also a good idea to limit caffeine to 2-3 cups a day (max).

Challenging Negative thinking

In cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), a psychological therapy, clients are taught to challenge negative thinking patterns, such as catastrophising and excessive worrying and replace them with more positive thoughts. In times of stress, such as exam times, the body’ fight or flight response is activated, and we feel that we are under threat. The body’s physiological response to this perceived threat is to experience unpleasant physical symptoms, such as increase in our heart rate, tightness in the chest, increased muscle tension and sweating. CBT and meditation may be helpful in reducing these symptoms. A good introduction to CBT is the book by Dr Sarah Edelman, Change Your Thinking.

Meditation and Mindfulness

The practice of meditation has a calming effect on the nervous system. There are many free apps that can be downloaded on your smartphone, that are very effective in teaching the art of meditation. Getsomeheadspace is one.  Set aside a time each day that you know you will not be disturbed and focus on your breathing and being in a state of mindfulness.

In summary, exam times can be very stressful. Each person has a different stress response. It is so important to look after your body and mind at this time. Stay calm, and know ‘that this too shall pass.’ If you feel overwhelmed and anxious, a visit to your GP may be helpful, as you may need referral to a psychologist for treatment. Good luck!

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