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How to Combat Exam Stress with HACCPS

Dear BE members,

The heat is real. I mean, besides the fact that it’s sweltering in Singapore, the academic sphere is bubbling. Apropos to our previous entry, October is a tough month indeed. When I was younger, I lamented over the short span of children’s day holiday. [seriously, one day only? ONE?] That’s not the only bad news. In addition to the pathetic one day holiday, I’ll most likely be forced to stay at home and study for exams. [Ha! Life right?] Anyway, I am not here to complain about the sad Children’s Day holiday. I am writing to you to share some strategies on combating exam stress. [Trying to be responsible here, after bringing exams-related bad news to you guys.] I call my combat strategies the HACCPS.

1. Hydrate but avoid caffeine Embrace yourself for what I am going to tell you next. Water is very important. 

Before you roll your eyes, what I am trying to say here is, drink more water. [BTW] I am not spouting nonsense here! Stress can cause dehydration. [Ha! Bet you didn’t know that!] If you find yourself feeling thirsty all the time this October, it might be due to stress. Don’t freak out and think that you are ill. This would increase your already heightened stress level and lead to greater sense of dehydration. [Surely, smart folks like you have figured out the pattern here? Stress > Dehydration > Stress > Dehydration > the cycle goes on] Before you think that the lack of hydration is no big deal, I have to remind you that our organs [yes, including the brain duh] need water to function normally. 

There’s a common but terrible side-effect to this stress-dehydration (SD) cycle. Instead of consuming plain water to quench your thirst, you find yourself reaching out for that aromatic brew which you thought could hydrate you while keeping you awake at the same time in a delicious manner. Hydration + Flavor for the tastebud + Keep the mind awake = Perfect combo for study marathon. Sadly, high level of caffeine can lead to lack of sleep. You will then have to suffer from health consequences and even higher stress level. 

My thoughts? Stay hydrated and break out of that SD cycle! If you need some flavor to your thirst quencher, consider an occasional glass of fruit juice or add a few drops of lemon to your plain H2O! [My favorite thirst quencher is still plain H2O though, plain H20 is free and healthy. It’s da best!]

2. Ample rest for the body and mind ‘REST? HOW CAN I REST!’

Now, if you are questioning this second strategy of mine, I can relate. You might feel guilty of being an irresponsible student when you allow yourself to tear your eyes off revision books and papers during exam preparation. You might even feel like slapping yourself for allowing your thoughts to trail off from Math, English, Science and all those subjects you are tested for. If you can’t even fathom out a reason for a good lunch in between revisions [Right hand hold spoon, left hand hold notes, eyes on notes and you still want to feed yourself efficiently? Don’t you agree you might end up losing appetite and wasting more time? Agree? Agree?], you can forget about sleeping at night.

It is an extremely common scenario where many students lose hours of sleep during exam period. If you are part of this group of students, you tend to wake up finding yourself dozing off in front of your desk and making an unconventional amount of careless mistakes. Diving into revisions with drowsiness will only make your exam preparation less effective.

My thoughts? Even the most intense exam timetables should factor in some time for study breaks! These breaks could be as short as 20 minutes. Take a power nap, have some healthy snacks/fruits, play a short handphone game. Really, anything that helps you take your mind off revisions for a while would work. Don’t be afraid to enjoy breaks that take up more time [If The Avengers was released during exam period, I’ll still fly out of my house to grab a ticket! Serious hor!]. So, the point here is to allow yourself to be distracted from exam stress! Spending a little time away from books and revision will leave you feeling more refreshed and relaxed the next time you revise. This will remove pre-examination anxiety stress! [And hor] I can’t stress this enough. Sleep is not for lazy people. It’s what people do to rest their minds and let it recharge for optimal performance ability the next day. Don’t forget, the virtues of a good night’s sleep [yes, even during exam season] should not be underestimated. It helps to keep you composed and relaxed during this crucial period!

3. Confide, not compare Exam stress can get to a point where it is overwhelming [go read *REVEALED* The 5 types of exam stress if you have not]. If you find yourself struggling to feel any happiness in life [ok la, this description very exaggerated but you can feel the emotion I want to portray ma], it is a sign that the stress is demoralising you. This could erode away your confidence in sitting for the test and disrupts your well-thought study plan. If you think you are the only one affected in this, you are wrong. Your gloominess could rub off on the people around you [whom, I am sure you love very much] and affect your everyday life. Given that you are already mentally drained from revisions and stress, you might find yourself comparing your progress with your peers. As the old saying goes:

“comparison is the thief of joy”

We all have the tendency to compare with others, how well we have memorised our notes or how much exam preparations we have made. Chances are, you are doing just fine. Unfortunately, you compared yourself with others and led yourself towards greater stress level [totally unnecessary ok] when you thought you aren’t progressing as fast as them [FOMO! FOMO!].

My thoughts? When your stress meter gets all cranked up and on the verge of exploding, try talking to someone about it. It could be your good friends, family members, counsellor in school. Speaking to someone allows you to channel all that inner negativity out [by this I don’t mean for you to go about shouting at people, I mean for you to have a nice chat to let your stressful thoughts out of your mind] instead of suppressing it all within yourself. It will make you feel better and reduce your stress level! [Before I forget] DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF WITH YOUR PEERS! Everyone has a different study methodology that works best for themselves. It is perfectly normal for you to have made different progress in your exam preparations as compared with others. So, do not worry over nothing!

4. Create a study plan

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” 

If you find yourself enduring constant panic attacks this month, it might be because you are subconsciously worrying about your inability to complete exam preparations before you enter the exam hall. [Aiyo, I am not being dramatic here. Some ppl really have panic attacks one!] In case you aren’t aware, this situation is totally avoidable. 

My thoughts? Invest some time in creating a study plan! Having a study plan helps you keep your eyes on the targets you want to achieve/finish studying before examinations. The simple act of outlining a topical checklist/drawing a calendar to schedule your study days goes a long way in this academic battle.

5. Stop stressing your kids (a message to parents) The kiasu spirit is in-grain in Singaporeans. Many Singaporeans have been too invested in chasing paper qualifications because exam results are just so important to them. Why important? While some firms have gradually moved away from prioritizing class of honours as an employment criteria, we should not kid ourselves that there all firms are doing the same. As much as we hate to accept it, it has become part of our culture to want to excel in exams. However, results are not everything. They do not determine the full capabilities of a person and they certainly do not determine one’s success/failure in life.

My thoughts? It is vital for parents to be aware that inflicting stress upon the children they love, is truly overbearing. Ask yourself, are exam results more important than your kids? One might not excel academically but one’s strength might lie in other areas [Arts, Music, Sports, even the art of talking to people is a very valuable asset ok]. So, STOP STRESSING YOUR KIDS!

Now, before you return to your revisions, let me share with you 1 good news. Feel free to use the HACCPS to combat your exam stress. The best thing about this? You do not even have to bother memorising what the HACCPS is all about. I welcome you to revisit this post whenever you find the need to refresh your memory on these strategies!

Good luck!

Best Regards,

The BE Team

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