There are several things that you can do yourself to reduce your stress level – use these stress busting tools and find the ones that work best for you
Take a break – move to a safe place! Have some time off. Walk away from the revision or the job application! It is unlikely that any revision or preparation you do whilst you are feeling really stressed will be very effective anyway. It is better to take a break and get things back in perspective again. Stand up and have a good stretch – go and put the kettle on and make everyone a cup of tea – you need to get a bit of exercise!
Change tasks – in the Land of Revision or job application, any route will help!
If there is a particular subject / topic that is bugging you then leave it for a bit. Look at another subject or do something ‘lightweight’ like sorting through your notes, writing some ‘revision cards’. These are also meaningful revision tasks but as they use a different part of your brain you can use it as a cooling down activity.
Make a plan – what would help you with this particular topic? Write down some questions and make a point of asking a friend or teacher for some help. Who do you know that is good at this topic? What exactly do you need help with?
Have a wash!
When feeling stressed – cool down, have a soak – refresh the body and the mind! I am not suggesting that revision makes you smell! Spending time having a wash is a subtle and effective way to show yourself that you still care about you! Have a soak in the bath or have a shower and remind yourself how much work you have already done and how pleased you are with yourself for staying focused! Instead of your usual shower gel – change the fragrance – helps you to feel different! Afterwards you will feel more refreshed and also smell nice!
On yer bike – Get on your bike and remember you are still human! Exercise is also important – there is a difference between knowing that and doing something about it! Get out of the house and get some fresh air. If you are into sport then go do some. If you are a less energetic type – get on your bike or go for a walk.
Walk away and refocus
‘Talk the walk’ – A good half hour walk (or an hour if possible) is good for balancing out the ‘chemicals of stress’ that build up when you are pushing yourself. Whilst walking pretend to be a secret agent (yes really) and give yourself a running commentary on what you can sense (see, hear, smell etc) as you go.
“I am walking down the road in a Northerly direction and I can smell onions cooking. It seems to be coming from that house over there. The house is number 44 and has a blue front door. There is a parked car on the drive with the registration number NBG 473X. I wonder what NBG stands for?’ I have walked past the house and round the corner into Humdrum Street. Ow! Some silly fool has put a lamp-post in the way! I can feel a numb sensation on my left shoulder where I collided with the offending piece of street furniture.”
Ok so that sounds pretty weird – although street furniture is the correct term for lamp-posts and traffic bollards etc. The idea is that you focus on what you can see right NOW as you are walking (if you didn't know, this is what Mindfulness is all about by the way!). Don’t go for a walk and let the voice in your head moan and whinge all the way with it’s endless babble of- “you’re no good at revision, and you haven’t even started to look at learning French verbs yet, and you need to get at least 25 GCSEs at level 9 if you are to be any good at anything at all in life. I don’t know why you bother, you’ve never been any good at studying and they told you that on your first day at Primary School, now if you were to get up at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning and skip breakfast and lunch you could fit in another 4 hours and you could learn all the science formulae off by heart.”
So instead of repeating all that kind of unhelpful advice to yourself (again) focus on what you are seeing on your walk and listen for the birds and just be totally focused and aware of the ‘walk’!
Now you know how to ‘talk the walk’ – go and do one!
Mind your language! During the day we tend to say a lot of things in our head that are totally unhelpful. This ‘voice’ in our head has been called many things but most of the time it is just an endless loop of negative comment. Ask yourself – when has this mindless chatter ever said anything remotely helpful? It is actually part of the problem and contributes nothing to improving your grades. Tell it to shut up and go and learn something useful like the structure of cells or the function of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems etc. Try and avoid listening to yourself when it says things like – ‘oh you’re no good at revision, you’re going to mess up these exams anyway and fail your future career’. Or ' who do you think you are applying for this job, you are a fraud and no good at anything'.
One way to change this relentless droning on is to answer back to your mind– better still in a really silly voice. Try something like ‘well you’re not exactly helping are you – just sitting there and giving me a load of grief and nonsense – I'd like to see you sit a 2 hour history exam or prepare for this job interview with your attitude – in fact you haven’t done any revision or preparation at all yet!’ It might sound like you are talking to yourself and losing the plot – In fact, you are challenging the truth of these unhelpful phrases!
Mindfulness. Being mindful is all about being aware of the Here and Now. There are several simple techniques to bring your mind from the awareness of ‘the possibility of impending doom’ associated with your exams. It’s all about drawing your attention back to where you are right now. We have lots of reminders about the grades that we are ‘expected’ to achieve. This is in the future and the more you fret and worry about the future the more stressed out you will feel. Gently bring your mind back to now. Here and now. The most common method is to just sit still and be aware of your breathing.
More Stress Busting Tools:
Asking your friends how they are coping is not always helpful. It can easily lead you to start comparing yourself and the revisions or job applications you have done with other people. Don’t even go there!
Get more help from:
Parents – talk to them and tell them how you are feeling. Tell them if you are worried about failing and letting everyone down. It might be that they don’t realise how much pressure you are feeling under. Ask them how they revised back in the olden days when they were a student!
Teachers – ask them how you can improve your grades – in particular they can help you with specific topics that you might be struggling with. They can also help you with their knowledge of previous exam papers and questions. Ask them for the help that you need with rather just moaning at them!
More help – send me a quick email and get in touch. There are other practical and yet fun and powerful coaching tools that I can share with you that can really help. If you are stuck and feeling panicky – get in touch and get yourself some help. In the meantime – use the Mindfulness technique above and take few deep breaths in... It will all be fine in the end!