‘Suno, Samjho, Jaano, Karo’, the mantra to eliminate exam stress
Come the month of February, the board exams seem to be just round the corner. Exams bring with them stress for students. Every student has gone through this ‘exam stress’. While, a small amount of stress is good as it motivates the student to perform better, but for some students, the stress can be overwhelming, which they may find difficult to cope with, particularly in this time of fierce competition. The fear of failure and the fear of letting others down (parents and family) are the most common factors causing anxiety and /or depression among students, which may at times lead to even suicide.
Anticipatory anxiety peaks before exams adversely affecting the body and mind resulting in a suboptimal performance. Being stressed while writing the exam makes it difficult to understand questions and hinders recall…the result may be a panic attack during the exam.
Too much stress affects the concentration and memory.
A memory of any fact or experience that we undergo is formed sequentially in three stages: sensory to short-term and then to long-term memory.
- Sensory memory is the memory that is perceived by all the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, which is retained accurately but lasts for about a second. Sensory memory is of three types: Iconic memory (visual), echoic (auditory) and haptic (tactile).
- Short-term memory refers to the ability to remember and also process a small amount of information (usually seven ± two items) at the same time. The information is retained but temporarily for a short period of time, less than a minute) until it is either dismissed or moved to the next stage i.e. long-term memory. Conscious efforts have to be made to retain this information, for instance by repeating the information continuously so that it is stored as a memory.
- Long-term memory refers to the storage and recall of information over a long period of time such as days, weeks, or years. There are two types of long-term memory: Declarative memory (recollection of facts, figures, events etc.) and procedural (based on skills and does not change e.g. tying a shoe lace, riding a bicycle).
Declarative memory applies to standard textbook learning and knowledge. It is the recall of declarative memory that helps in exams. Sleep appears to help “set” these declarative memories and make them easier to recall. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep i.e. the brain processes the information learnt in the day and stores it.
Exam stress is surmountable. To avoid stress, children indulge in addictions to stay awake during exams, sometimes all through the night. But, this is not the right way to manage exam stress.
Stress management teaches us to shift from the sympathetic to parasympathetic mode by pranayama, meditation, relaxation techniques etc.
During the phase of acute stress when the sympathetic system is predominant, heart rate and blood pressure rises. In this state, a person cannot take correct and decisive decision and is likely to make mistakes, which can often be detrimental to living. Sympathetic mode is basically the ‘flight or fight’ reaction of the body.
Regular pranayama shifts one from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode, balances the mind and thoughts and helps in removing negative thoughts from the mind.
Right conscious–based decisions can only be taken in a state of relaxed mind when the intention is inserted in the field of consciousness. The relaxed mind state of the body is the parasympathetic mode which is healing and is evident by reduction in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Flow of thought increases in a relaxed mind.
Tips to eliminate exam stress
- It is important to get enough sleep every day and not just the night before the exam.
- Avoid last minute study. If you study all night, you are in sympathetic mode and will not be able to recall what you have studied.
- Study common topics.
- Avoid addictions.
- Eat a balanced diet and stay well hydrated.
- Do deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga to manage stress and shift your state of mind from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state.
- Suno, Samjho, Jaano, Karo is the mantra for students, which means one should not only hear, but listen and understand and then convert the understanding (knowledge) to wisdom by doing it practically. When you convert knowledge into wisdom, it sticks to your consciousness and you will remember what you have learnt.