Chronic vs healthy stress: which one are you feeling?

FULL ARTICLE

By Holly Beaumont, First Year English

The Croft Magazine // Exam period is a stressful time and so it is vital that we look after our mental health and wellbeing. Whilst it can be difficult to switch off, it is important to take some time for yourself this exam season.

For most, January marks the aftermath of the festive period and facing the responsibilities of day-to-day life once more. However, for 50 per cent of young people in the UK, it represents a time where lives can become about only one thing: exams. During this period, it is of vital importance that we prioritise our mental and physical health above all else to prevent feelings of anxiety and depression arising.

Life is fundamentally a balancing act and devoting excessive time to any one activity, will cause the other aspects of your life to decline.

It is important to understand that there is a form of stress that is healthy and necessary to function at our best on a day-to-day basis. This is the feeling we get that motivates us to carry out tasks that are ultimately beneficial to us and our productivity.

From attending a lecture, to cleaning your room, it is a healthy stress that urges us to respond in a positive way and actually do these things, rather than opting for laziness. There is, however, a thin line between this and chronic stress. This is the type of stress that descends us into depression and anxiety.

With a looming exam, it can begin to feel as though learning absolutely everything, is the only thing that matters and this can become the priority in place of so many other things. One way to avoid chronic stress and look after yourself this exam season, is through remembering the importance of balance and time management.

Life is fundamentally a balancing act and devoting excessive time to any one activity, will cause the other aspects of your life to decline. For example, while it may seem like revising during exam season should be your sole focus, this should not be at the total detriment of other things, such as doing physical activity, having sufficient rest, and maintaining relationships.

One way to manage this is through creating a schedule and setting clear and achievable goals with your revision. It is vital to outline the hours when you will revise, and also allowing for time during the day (most likely the evening), when you will allocate time for the other parts of your life. This can be seeing a friend, playing a sport or having down-time for yourself. Managing your time allows you to feel in control of it and the knowledge that you are in control will decrease levels of stress.

During exam season, there is also a likelihood that you expense of so much energy during the day and are focusing so greatly on revision, that you forget to properly take care of yourself in daily life.

It is easy to schedule 12 hours of revision and feel guilty if you fail to complete this, but it is much more beneficial to put goals in place that are attainable.

The negative effects of stress are not just apparent in our mental health but also in our physical wellbeing too. It is important to eat properly to fuel yourself with food and to re-generate through a good sleeping pattern. Our immune systems are compromised through intense levels of stress and so this is a crucial time to take care of yourself.

Many studies show that there is a positive correlation between getting enough sleep, and a good quality of sleep, with memory consolidation. While it might seem like a good idea to pull an all-nighter, it is much better to get a decent sleep and wake up early the next day to revise then.

Trying new recipes can be a good stress-reliever | Rosie Angel-Clark / Epigram

Similarly, eating well increases concentration, alertness and productivity. It might seem easier to skip meals to seemingly make more time for revision, or to not put time into having a balanced diet, but this can lead to fatigue and a lack of concentration, which will make for less effective revision. This links into the importance of time management as you should allow time in the evening to cook for yourself. Even better, invite a friend round and cook together.

It is not uncommon to set unrealistic goals for yourself and your revision during the exam season because of the pressure put on you. But it is vital that you be kind to yourselves! It is easy to schedule 12 hours of revision and feel guilty if you fail to complete this, but it is much more beneficial to put goals in place that are attainable.

This applies to the number of hours you set and the amount of content you set yourself to learn. This way, you will feel accomplished at the end of each revision session as you will have completed what you set out to, rather than feeling guilty about falling short.

It is also important to remember that you can only do your own best. If the person next to you at the library seems to be writing non-stop, all day, do not let this deter you or make you feel bad. When you realise that you are in competition with yourself, rather than your peers, it will remove a large amount of stress.

Although exams may seem like the be-all-and-end-all, your mental and physical well-being are of far greater importance.

Featured: Unsplash / Sharon McCutcheon


Find The Croft Magazine inside every copy of Epigram newspaper

AUTHOR