Coping with Exam Stress: The Role of Physical Activity

It is not uncommon for a student’s stress level to go up – by a significant margin – as exam season gets closer. The thought of facing a series of exams is already stressful, but the actual day-to-day process of completing exams and getting great results put even more pressure on them.

If you are feeling stressed before the exam season, you are not alone. Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with exam stress and improve your ability to focus at the same time. In this article, we are going to focus more on the role of physical activities and how the right exercise can help you.

The Symptoms of Exam Stress

Before we look further into some of the ways to integrate physical activities into your stress-reducing routine, it is necessary to understand how to better spot exam stress (and stress in general) from its symptoms. At a certain point, you will start noticing unexplained pains and frequent headaches. These are the first symptoms and they are easy to spot.

Other symptoms include not being able to sleep properly at night and having difficulties waking up in the morning. You may also experience poor appetite and increased anxiety, even when there is nothing to worry about.

When you notice these symptoms, the next step to take is recognizing what really stresses you out. Is it the upcoming exam? Or is it the fact that you don’t feel ready for the exam? Talk to someone who has had experience in facing similar situations before and you can gain a lot of useful insights on how to cope with exam stress.

Cardio and Strength

Physical activities bring a long list of benefits. They are particularly effective in helping your body metabolize nutrients better, improve blood and oxygen circulation, and enhance brain functions effectively. That said, cardio-related exercises and activities that specifically target (and improve) your strength are the best for coping with exam stress.

Rock climbing is the perfect example of a physical activity that can help you manage stress better, especially as you get closer to exam season. For starters, rock climbing is cardio-intensive and really pushes you to the limit. It doesn’t just tone your muscles but increases flexibility too.

There are also different styles of rock climbing to try, each with its own unique benefits. Top rope climbing, for example, is very effective in helping you build endurance and expand your stamina. Bouldering, on the other hand, is very good for focus (and the mind in general), since you are training to follow a set route.

Other activities with similar positive effects on mind and body include hiking, running, bike riding, dancing, HIIT workouts (you will get awesome results for only 15 minutes), etc. If you manage to combine any of this with occasional yoga or meditation session, results could exceed your expectations and surprise you on a most wonderful way.

Practice Breathing

Breathing – or controlled breathing, to be exact – is a big part of most physical activities. Unless you can control your breathing and maintain your stamina, you will find yourself out of energy and out of breath really quickly. The same breathing technique can also help you reduce your heart rate and give you the ability to maintain composure.

The more you exercise, the more you will benefit from improved breathing. Once again, cardio-intensive activities such as running, rock climbing and bike riding are perfect for the job. As you build your stamina, you are expanding your body’s ability to distribute oxygen in an effective manner.

You can take breathing techniques used during physical activity beyond the limit of those activities. Using the same breathing technique, regain composure and lower your heart rate every time you feel nervous or stressed. The more you do this, the better you’ll be at dealing with anxiety through improved breathing.

The Goals

Last but not least, physical activities help you get used to setting goals and striving to achieve them. When the same physical activities are parts of your routine, working with goals and achieving them becomes second nature.

Once again, we can turn to rock climbing as a good example. You always have a goal – the endpoint you want to reach – in mind, and you get used to planning your route to get there. Other physical activities have this type of objective setting exercise built into them too.

From these points, it is easy to see how physical activities can really help you cope with exam stress. Find an activity that works for you, integrate the exercise into your everyday routine, and start managing your stress level better.

Caitlin Evans is a bookworm, photographer and dancer. She is also a medical student in love with science. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Caitlin is researching and writing about various health related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu and caffeine.


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